Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two Thrilling Legal Reads!

Two legal documents released in the US over the last few weeks provide a thrilling update on the progress of the book industry's transition to the digital future.

The first one is Google's 'Reply Memorandum' that seeks to bring to a close the unresolved Google book scanning saga by seeking to have the court recognise that Google's scanning of millions of books without permission was in fact an exercise of Fair Use under the US copyright act. And the display of snippets that the scanning would allow would in fact facilitate book sales, just as bookshop browsing does now.  

The second one is the Department of Justice's 'Reply Memorandum' that addresses the objections of the ebook publisher defendants in the agency pricing collusion case. The DOJ is relentless in its attack on the agency model which it claims is the result of publisher 'collusion' to lift prices above 'the wretched $9.99 price' established by Amazon.

I use the word 'thrilling' above deliberately, because both documents are full of robust, spirited, take-no-prisoners language, and argue their cases aggressively and persuasively. You don't get lost in a dry-as-dust legal tangle of formality, process and case reference. It's refreshing, enlivening prose, like reading a good legal thriller.

The book industry of course continues to seethe with anger over these challenges to its righteousness and integrity, and is fighting for 'its very survival'.

But it is completely, profoundly wrong. It needs to liberate itself  from this mind-numbing, defensive, energy-sapping, fearful, protectionist, 'we're special' siege mentality and be courageous enough to embrace a digital future with confidence and maturity.

The best thing, in other words, for the industry's survival and prosperity in the radical new digital paradigm that confronts it is for both Google and the DOJ to achieve sweeping victories. 

And the sooner the better. 

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