Courtrooms, like football fields, are stages for transformation. At times, opposing sides clash over principle. Otherwise, they fight for profit. There are good guys, and there are bad guys, umpires, and cheerleaders. At the conclusion of such contests, we hardly even recognize the players, for all the accusations and the revelations.
Writing about what he calls the OJ Simpson of copyright trials, journalist/attorney Jeff Roberts recounts a nearly decade- long contest, pitting East Coast against West Coast, Manhattan Island versus Silicon Valley, technology upstarts taking on publishing elites. The Battle for the Books – Inside Google’s Gambit to Create the World’s Biggest Library reminds us of the Titan-like ambitions and the ensuing legal donnybrook on a global scale among authors, publishers, librarians, and academics. It ends on a world utterly changed, and forever, and in ways unforeseeable to the parties when they began their war.
The Google Books Case that opened in 2005, and still continues in court today, saw “the literary establishment of New York and Boston meet the radical whiz kids of Silicon Valley,” Roberts tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “And it’s hard to discuss this without putting a value judgment on it – in the sense that Silicon Valley can sound bad, or old publishing elite can sound bad. But I think both sides’ views were very legitimate, and I don’t really side with one over the other. I think they’re both two immensely smart, prestigious realms that came together very quickly in an unexpected way.”
Jeff Roberts covers legal and media news for paidContent and GigaOM; prior to paidContent, he worked for Reuters in Paris and New York. He studied law at McGill University, Montreal, clerked at the Federal Court, and has passed the bar in New York and Ontario.