Google Is No Longer Silicon Valley's Legal Defender
from the too-bad dept
When Google settled the lawsuit over its book scanning project, we noted with disappointment how this appeared to signal the end of Google’s earlier position of fighting certain legal battles on principle. For a few years, Google’s legal team had been taking up a variety of lawsuits purely on principle. In many cases it would have been cheaper and easier to settle, but Google had made clear that it saw those lawsuits as a way to define better law — and that helped all of Silicon Valley (and, in many cases, the overall economy). Yet, in settling this lawsuit, it became clear that Google was no longer fighting lawsuits on principle, and, in fact would consider settling cases knowing that it actually made life more difficult for the rest of Silicon Valley.
Obviously, as a business concern, this is Google’s right — and some may even say that it’s Google’s responsibility to its shareholders to do such a thing. I would disagree, simply because, in the long term, by settling these lawsuits, rather than helping to establish what the law says, Google merely invites more lawsuits from more companies hoping to “settle up” as well. Plus, without the law being clear, it creates uncertainty and inefficiency in the market, and that’s not good for anyone — including Google.
Fred von Lohmann, over at the EFF, has written up an op-ed noting pretty much the same thing. The rest of Silicon Valley can no longer rely on Google to fight their legal battles for them — and, we’re all going to be worse off for it in the long run. Not that anyone ever should have expected Google to be the rest of the tech community’s legal defender, but it certainly had been a welcome development — which is apparently now over.