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Google Book Search Settlement: Foster Competition, Escrow the Scans

So what would be necessary to create a marketplace with an opportunity for real competition? Obviously, entities other than Google will have to be able to get the same kind of blanket copyright license on comparable terms. Unfortunately, the proposed settlement makes Google the only company that can get a blanket license that covers orphan works — that issue has received considerable attention.

But those who are worried about market entry and long-term competition in this arena should also be thinking about another thing competitors need: access to the scans themselves.

The raw scans themselves should not be subject to copyright protection. But if Google hoards the scans, preventing bulk copying (with either legal or technical measures), then competitors will be forced to spend millions to re-scan the very same books in order to compete with Google. This not only is a barrier to entry, but also entails enormous long-term social waste — do we really want a world where every book needs to be re-scanned, over and over, by anyone who wants to enter this market?

…”to understand”?

Charmant !

David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said the company was “in the process” of responding to the Justice Department’s request and said antitrust regulators “are generally trying to understand the settlement.”

Google and Guggeinheim Launch Design It: Shelter Competition

exh_flwsackler490

On the occasion of the exhibitions Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward and Learning By Doing, the Guggenheim and Google SketchUp invite amateur and professional designers from around the world to enter Design It: Shelter Competition. From now until August 23, you can submit a 3-D shelter for locations around the world using Google SketchUp and Google Earth.

Google Book Settlement Discussion

Until now, discussions on the Google Book Settlement have been taking place across fragmented forums. Now, for the first time, policymakers, businesspeople, scholars, journalists and others have the opportunity to come together and engage in a granular, contextual dialogue on this important topic.

[The] platform supports comments and responsive statements in real-time, linking them directly to the Google Book Settlement and accompanying documents through online footnoting, always preserving the original documents in their original form. As a result, the Google Book Settlement site becomes an informed and transparent analysis of key points of the settlement by its most concerned stakeholders, available to anyone on the Web.

Relevant: Legally Speaking: The Dead Souls of the Google Booksearch Settlement by Pamela Samuelson

Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability

Definitely worth reading to the end although the story gets eerie at points.

Most people think of the Google ad auction as a straightforward affair. In fact, there’s a key component that few users know about and even sophisticated advertisers don’t fully understand. The bids themselves are only a part of what ultimately determines the auction winners. The other major determinant is something called the quality score. This metric strives to ensure that the ads Google shows on its results page are true, high-caliber matches for what users are querying. If they aren’t, the whole system suffers and Google makes less money.

Google determines quality scores by calculating multiple factors, including the relevance of the ad to the specific keyword or keywords, the quality of the landing page the ad is linked to, and, above all, the percentage of times users actually click on a given ad when it appears on a results page. (Other factors, Google won’t even discuss.) There’s also a penalty invoked when the ad quality is too low—in such cases, the company slaps a minimum bid on the advertiser. Google explains that this practice—reviled by many companies affected by it—protects users from being exposed to irrelevant or annoying ads that would sour people on sponsored links in general. Several lawsuits have been filed by would-be advertisers who claim that they are victims of an arbitrary process by a quasi monopoly.

You can argue about fairness, but arbitrary it ain’t. To figure out the quality score, Google needs to estimate in advance how many users will click on an ad. That’s very tricky, especially since we’re talking about billions of auctions. But since the ad model depends on predicting clickthroughs as perfectly as possible, the company must quantify and analyze every twist and turn of the data. Susan Wojcicki, who oversees Google’s advertising, refers to it as “the physics of clicks.”

Google Street View hits privacy gridlock in Germany

Germany and Google Inc. remained at odds today over how the company holds certain data used for its Street View map imagery.

Google was given a deadline of today to agree to 12 points regarding Street View in order to comply with Germany’s privacy laws, which generally restrict photographs of people and property except in very public situations, such as a sporting event, without a person’s consent.

The final sticking point concerns partially censored images where Google has blurred items such as license plates or peoples’ faces, said Johannes Caspar, who heads the data protection agency for the Hamburg area.

Hamburg as well 15 other German states want Google to permanently delete that information from its databases in order to comply with the law, Caspar said. Google, however, says it needs to retain that data in order to make its automated blurring technology more accurate, Caspar said.

Google built its own application for automatically detecting faces and license plates, which it says is up to 99% accurate. Google has argued to Hamburg that it needs to retain the data since the blurring technology is self-learning and needs more data to improve.

In pictures: Google Street View glitches captured on screen (news.com.au) [lol!]

Brin Spin – Google brands ebook monopoly critics ‘shortsighted’

(The guy is like something sinister from a horror movie!)

In October, the company settled a lawsuit from the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, and if approved by the court the deal would hand Google – among other things – an eternal license to scan and sell and post ads against so-called “orphan works,” books whose rights are controlled by authors and publishers who have ceased to exist or can’t otherwise be located.

And this legal protection would apply only to Google. “Google will have permission to bring under its sole control information that has been accessible through public institutions for centuries,” Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote in an editorial published earlier this week by The Washington Post. “In essence, Google will be privatizing our libraries.”

Of course, Sergey Brin doesn’t see the problem. In an interview with The New York Times, he said the settlement would allow Google to offer widespread access to millions of books that are largely hidden in university libraries. “We are increasing choices,” Mr. Brin told The Times. “There was no option prior to this to get these sorts of books online.”

Ah, but that’s because no one else was willing to get themselves sued for multimillions of dollars.

For whom the Google tolls

Google’s toddler Stalinism strikes back:

…before Google came along, any of us was able to survive beyond childhood. At the company’s Zeitgeist conference in London yesterday, cofounder Larry Page warned that privacy-protecting restrictions on Google’s ability to store personal data were hindering the company from tracking the spread of diseases and hence increasing the risk of mankind’s extinction. The less data Google is allowed to store, said Page, the “more likely we all are to die.” (This is a particularly sensitive issue for Page, as he’s a big backer of the Singularitarians’ attempts to secure human immortality.)

New Mood in Antitrust May Target Google

Last week, the Obama administration declared a sharp break with the Bush years, vowing to toughen antitrust enforcement, especially for dominant companies. The approach is closer to that of the European Union, where regulators last week fined Intel $1.45 billion for abusing its power in the chip market.

In this new climate, the stakes appear to be highest for Google, the rising power of the Internet economy.

The new antitrust leadership, legal experts say, is likely to scrutinize networks — technology platforms that become so dominant that everyone feels the need to plug into them. The advantages to the companies that control such networks snowball as they attract more users, advertisers or software developers. Internet search and search advertising, like personal computer operating software, is one example, said Herbert Hovenkamp, an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa law school. “Google is a dominant network, as is Microsoft,” Mr. Hovenkamp said. “Networks become competitive only if everyone has the same chance.”

Pirates and Crackers

The more I read about these kids the more their chutzpah reminds me of Google’s. (Just to get the story straight here: sharing files privately with your friends is one thing,making money out of unauthorized sharing of artistic property between random consumers is quite another, it is theft.)

It seems that despite my deep dislike for Google (and my ever growing contempt for tech-ignorant-justice) my aversion for the Pirate Bay folks is after all stronger and grows even stronger by the minute. It’s old news for Swedes, I know, but I found it genuinely surprising that Carl Lundström, the business angel of Pirate Bay (currently also bankrolling the legal proceedings) and heir of Wasabröd, the world’s largest manufacturer of crispbread, is widely known in his home country for his extreme nationalistic views as well as for some rather controversial party affiliations in the not-so-sexy far-right end of the political spectrum.

No wonder the Pirate Bay three (two of which are believed to reside in Switzerland — expenses paid by artists’ lost royalties, I would guess) have on several occasions tried to underplay Lundström’s role in Pirate Bay. After all they are in politics now (and by the way I hope that Google doesn’t get any ideas). Yet all of a sudden, in my eyes, the crowds of protesters that filled the streets in front of the Court House a few weeks ago have irrevocably lost some of their charm. Filesharing for profit has never been IMHO a noble idea. But even if it has for some people, having it funded (for profit) by someone in whose head the “noble goals” of filesharing are mixed with the “noble goals” of Arian purity is puzzling, unsettling and utterly disillusioning, to say the least. Being a member of the nationalist organization Bevara Sverige Svenskt (”Keep Sweden Swedish”) is not not quite as innocent as joining your neighbourhood Brio train network…

It is saddening that the free-access community is not better versed in real-life politics. And it is even more saddening that political parties – especially of the left – have not as yet committed to coming up with serious internet policies. Copy-pasting the views of their share-happy CIOs or Internet teams into quickly-drafted green papers will simply not work.