Google Legal Risks

22 Aug

A legal risk is the one event companies and enterprises cannot afford to miss. Legal risk is risk from uncertainty due to legal actions or uncertainty in the applicability or interpretation of contracts, laws or regulations ( 2010). Depending on an institution’s circumstance, legal risks may include confidential information, trademark infringement, copyright infringement and so on. Google is a multinational public cloud computing, Internet search, and advertising technologies corporation (Wikipedia 2010). Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products, and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program. Apparently, Google also has some legal risks from its web services and products.

Copyright Infringement

Google established its book searching project in 2004. The Google Book Search project has two aspects: the Partner Program and the Library Project. Under the Partner Program, a publisher controlling the rights in a book can authorize Google to scan the full text of the book into Google’s search database. Under the Library Project, Google plans to scan into its search database materials from the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford Universities, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library. In response to search queries, users will be able to browse the full text of public domain materials, but only a few sentences of text around the search term in books still covered by copyright (Jonathan Band 2006). However, On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild and several individual authors sued Google for copyright infringement. A month later, five publishers – McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley & Sons – sued Google. The Library Project involves two actions that raise copyright risks. First, Google copies the full text of books into its search database. Second, in response to users’ queries, Google presents users with a few sentences from the stored text. That may be the argumentative point, Google made electronic searching infinitely easier. However, Google is not in the business of preserving scholarship (Dana Neacsu 2007).

An interesting video from BBC Click about the Google Books Copyright Argument


When Google’s technology strategies conflict with certain cultural or political issues, Google has another legal risk of jurisdiction. It can be still remembered the battle between Google and China about self-censorship at the beginning of this year. Finally, Google has shut down its censored Chinese version and is now giving mainlanders an uncensored search engine in Simplified Chinese, delivered from its server in Hong Kong (Harry McCracken 2010). At the same time, the Chinese Government, of course, decide to block this new version of Google, as it does many other uncensored sources of information. At the moment, Web search, image search, news, ads, and Gmail are up; YouTube, Sites, and Blogger are down; Docs and Groups are partially blocked.

Both of these two legal risks still potentially exist in Google. In the previous action, it seems that Google did not settle them well. To achieve better profits for the organization, further social media policies and regulations should be developed by Google.



Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Enterprise 2.0, Weekly Post


4 responses to “Google Legal Risks

  1. Geng Gao

    August 22, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Copyright Infringement is really a big legal issue which related to the fast developing IT environment, especially in my country China. I think this area is need to be studied so we can make a better future.

    • bianyang

      August 23, 2010 at 7:02 am

      Absolutely agree with you, Gao.
      Copyright Infringement is always a legal risk in digital environments. For instance, we write blog posts every week, and some opinions and materials are related to other authors’ work. If we do not reference these information appropriately, it may cause the legal risk or plagiarism. In the same way, organizations or enterprises also suffer this kind of legal issue.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Xin Zhao

    August 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    If a corporation want to become more successful, it has to adapt the local legal. However, the local legal may limit some functions, that is inconvenient for users. How to keep the balance? It is a problem. In contrast, copyright should be protected, because we need a fair business environment.

    • bianyang

      August 23, 2010 at 7:11 am

      That is impressive, Zhao.
      You mentioned the point “how to keep the balance”. It is really difficult for a enterprise to achieve optimal balance without touch any legal risks.
      Thanks for commenting.


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