The hubbub over Google Book Search was quiet toward the end of 2009, with Google, authors and publishers anxiously waiting for their next day in the New York District Court presiding over the case.
GBS was the subject of a rousing debate Dec. 30, courtesy of PBS NewsHour, which pitted Google Book Search engineer Dan Clancy versus Gary Reback, the lawyer of Microsoft antitrust fame and a vocal opponent of GBS via the Open Book Alliance.
You can read the transcript of the debate and see this video, which sums up the case well in an 8:35-minute clip:
Peter Brantley, Reback's co-steward at the Open Book Alliance, notes that while Clancy was candid about Google hoping to make money from selling access to the digital books it scans, the engineer skirted the monopoly issue.
That's because Google doesn't see itself in monopolistic, Microsoftian terms the way Brantley, Reback, Amazon.com and, in the supreme irony, Microsoft do.
Clancy acquitted himself well, and PBS NewsHour's Spencer Michels rounded up a Stanford University librarian for support, but I still feel Google got smoked here by Reback, who is merciless and unyielding without being laughably fire-and-brimstone the way so many Google critics come off.
Reback told PBS NewsHour's Michels he doesn't trust Google not to impose hefty licensing fees for GBS and noted:
"What Google is proposing here is not like any library you have ever been to. It's not a public library. It's a private library. And it's being run for profit, big profits. Google is going to charge university scholars, ordinary people, even schoolchildren, to get access to books that Google copied without the permission of the publisher or the author."
"People no longer see any big difference between Google and Google's competitors. They're in it for money. And we need to depend on the competitive system to protect us."
He also notes that he would be railing against Amazon.com and Microsoft if they received similar deals, but noted that if all of the Internet companies got a similar deal we would all be better off for it.
Reback makes a compelling case, but early reports are District Court Judge Denny Chin likes the revised deal. Of course, the Department of Justice will weigh in heavily this month with its view and is not supposed to be so kind toward Google.
Keep an eye on this story because it's going to heat up over the next six weeks.