The Scanning Age; or, a primer on the Corporate State

A recent article in the New York Times talks about Google’s so-called “pursuit” of copyholders on the books they are digitizing.  This is part of the settlement announce last October that effectively legalizes Google’s blatant trademark infringement.  As part of the settlement, Google is given the green light to violate one’s trademark as an author, editor, publisher, or illustrator – unless you tell them not to.

The stipulation is that Google has to make “reasonable” efforts to inform the authors of their presumption, and pay revenue shares to the authors.

This is not a good precedent.  Stop and think about it for a moment.  If I want to infringe on your rights, I’ve got a clear path, provided, A) I give you a chance to ask me to stop (“But, Dad, he didn’t ask me to stop hitting him!”), and B) I toss a few coins at your feet.

I’m not bashing Google as a company – in fact, for the most part, up to this point, they’ve been a pretty consistent and conspicuous model of social responsibility.  I really commend them for that.  So, I’m certain that current leadership’s motivation in pursuing this end is not nefarious.

But, power has a way of shifting, whether its political, or corporate.  And, one must wonder what the danger is of the power we are all so willingly trusting to Google’s erstwhile “do no evil” hands, and the precedents we allow them to set.

As Americans, we scream and cry foul at any approach of government appearing to have too much power – no matter how favorably we might view the present administration or weighting of the aisles in the Senate.

And, we should.  Our nation was born of a desire to escape tyranny.

But, we should consider the risk of tyranny of a different kind: corporate tyranny.  A tyranny in which enough money and presumption can override laws that are established to protect the people. Today we’re talking about Google and copyright – not that big of a deal, you say – but, tomorrow, what if we’re talking <insert MegaCorp here> and civil rights?

Why is it we feel so differently about consolidated power when its in corporate hands as opposed to government hands?  Is the risk really so much different?

Is it?

If you’re an author, and want to dispute the settlement in order to preserve your intellectual property rights, information on the process can be found here.

For the rest of us, the best option is probably to write your local congressperson.

BTW, for those left wondering what the connection between all of this and Neal Stephenson is – Diamond Age – go pick up a copy and enjoy, if you haven’t already.  He’s got a great distopian view of the future of government and the coporate state.  Not just that, but its flat out a brilliant book that breaks out from the sci-fi genre.  In fact, here’s a coupon for a buck off, on me: NSTEPH8 (good til the end of March).

5 thoughts on “The Scanning Age; or, a primer on the Corporate State”

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