Legit book scanning price tag: $25 billion
Google would have to give up most if not all of its available cash to secure copyrights to books, which probably explains why they have been scanning books and given publishers an opt-out choice that teeters on legal grounds.
Google’s ambitious efforts to scan millions of books, in and out of print, and make them available in various ways to searchers, could be derailed if certain legal challenges push the issue to the Supreme Court.
Weekly Standard staff writer Jonathan V. Last said the task of pursuing all of the copyright holders would be a formidable one. Google probably won’t be able to avoid that if the courts find in favor of the search ad company’s enemies:
If the courts were to find against Google, however, the Book Search would likely die on the vine. As Georgetown’s Band notes, it would be extremely difficult to construct a licensing regime for books modeled on the ASCAP/BMI models for musical compositions. And if Google were to try to go legit, the transaction costs of identifying, locating, and contacting copyright holders to seek permission could easily stretch to tens of billions of dollars. Band puts the best guess in the neighborhood of $25 billion.
Would Google’s co-founders believe enough in the company to commit to such an undertaking, were the gavel to fall on Book Search as it is today?