Mark my words. This suit isn't going to be settled - at least by Google. I've been talking to folks at the company for five years now and fundamental to their goal of organizing the world's information is that the web fundamentally changes copyright law. And when these guys believe in something they don't typically take the easy way out - even if most outside the company think they are crazyfor it.
Go look at at that trademark suit with Geico a few years back.
Yahoo settled immediately because it rightly feared that a court fight with a Warren-Buffett-controlled company might be bad for business. Google fought it for a year before settling. Remember the DOJ's subpoena for consumer web search data last year? Microsoft and Yahoo complied immediately. Google pushed back in court and forced the request to be significantly narrowed. It' argument with book publishers in the US and in Europe seems headed for court too.
Google doesn't have have any ambitions to traffic in pirated material, but I also know they believe - as I do- that the current laws regarding fair use need revisiting. What better place to do it than in a court of law. Settling may be the most expedient way to solve corporate tiffs, but since most of them are confidential, no one learns anything. And we all need to learn a lot about copyright law, hammer out new statutes that make sense and get back to creating stuff instead of pissing on each other.
Of course there is also the Napster case, summarized here in the Wall Street Journal of May 10, 2000:
"Judge Patel denied Napster's claim that it was a "mere conduit" of information, like a phone network or an Internet-service provider. Under U.S. law, those businesses are exempt from being held responsible for the copyrighted material they might transmit, as long as they take reasonable steps to keep it off their systems.
The judge also ruled that Napster hadn't taken adequate steps to keep "repeat offenders" from using the site. Napster cancels the account of a user found to be passing pirated material. But the judge noted that it is easy for someone to sign up with a new account, because real names don't have to be given to use the service."
Compare it to the Journal's coverage of Viacom's suit below:
The dispute centers on the companies' different views of "fair use" of copyrighted material under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Google and YouTube argue they aren't liable for content that other people post, while Viacom thinks they are.
Google and YouTube "to some extent believe that the Internet has changed the nature of content," said Joseph Rosenbaum, a partner at Reed Smith and a specialist in electronic commerce and intellectual property. The result is the media companies feel they have to "defend the value of their content almost at the point of a gun," he added. Mr. Rosenbaum has represented Viacom in other digital-rights matters but isn't involved in this case.
Underlying the failed talks -- and Viacom's escalation to confrontation -- is a "genuine disagreement" that Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt discussed last week at an investor conference between Google and traditional media about how to pursue the emerging business of online video. Media companies argue their content has a certain value that should be rewarded, while Google says "prove it" with viewer traffic, Mr. Schmidt said. "That's often a difficult conversation."