IN 2002, Google began to drink the milkshakes of the book world...
Back then, according to the company’s official history, it began a “secret ‘books’ project.” Today, that project is known as Google Book Search and, aided by a recent class-action settlement, it promises to transform the way information is collected: who controls the most books; who gets access to those books; how access will be sold and attained. There will be blood, in other words.
Like the oil barons in the late 19th century, Google is thirsty for a vital raw material — digital content. As Daniel J. Clancy, the engineering director for Google Book Search, put it, “our core business is about search and discovery, and search and discovery improves with more content.”
He can even sound like a prospector when he says Google began its effort to scan millions of books “because there is a ridiculous amount of information out there,” he said, later adding, “and we didn’t see anyone else doing it.”
But there is a crucial difference. Unlike Daniel Plainview, the antihero of “There Will Be Blood,” played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who cackles when describing how his rigs can suck the oil underneath other peoples’ property — drink their milkshakes, if you will — when Google copies a book the original remains.Instead, the “property” being taken is represented by copyrights and other kinds of ownership. There will be lawsuits.