Yesterday’s mail brought along Vol 3, No. 1 of the Journal of Business & Technology Law. This issue contains a Google symposium, “Google: An Intersection of Business and Technology,” which includes these articles:
Google and Fair Use, Jonathan Band
Information Policy for the Library of Babel, James Grimmelmann
The Google IPO, Matthias Hild
Asterisk Revisited: Debating a Right of Reply on Search Results, Frank Pasquale
From Making Money without Doing Evil to Doing Good without Handouts: The Google.org Experiment in Philanthropy, Shruti Rana
Google Benefits or Google’s Benefit?, Susan J. Stabile
Privacy on Planet Google: Using the Theory of “Contextual Integrity” to Clarify the Privacy Threats of Google’s Quest for the Perfect Search Engine, Michael Zimmer
Clearly an issue for us to take with us on our summer vacations for beach or pool-side reading!
James Grimmelmann’s article, published under a Creative Commons license, sets “out a few principles of sensible information policy for the Library of Babel.” Here are the article’s concluding principles:
III. THE INTERNET
As it announces in its very first sentence, The Library of Babel is an allegory for the universe. This essay has also treated it as an allegory–and an anachronistic and transparent one at that. For “Library of Babel,” read “Internet.” For “book,” read “Web site.” And for “Book-Man,” read “search engine.” It’s almost a cliche to assert that the Internet is like a vast library, that it causes problems of information overload, or that it contains both treasures and junk in vast quantities. Looking at it through the lens of Borges’s Library amplifies these themes to their utter limit, and thus makes them fresh again. The ten principles set forth above are completely serious. Here they are again, using the proper terminology:
1. The public interest means readers’ interest.
2. Infrastructure matters.
3. Censorship is usually irrelevant.
4. The problem is access, not creation.
5. The Internet is nearly, but not completely useless.
6. Search engines make the Internet useful.
7. An impostor could not pretend to have a good search engine.
8. Search engines could keep secrets from us and we’d never know.
9. Search engines can play favorites.
10. The more search engines the better.
The Library of Babel provides an exhilarating and frightening metaphor for the Internet. Exhilarating because it reminds us that we are all now “the possessors of an intact and secret treasure” of knowledge beyond compare. Frightening because it reminds us that that knowledge is shut away in a “feverish [place], whose random volumes constantly threaten to transmogrify into others, so that they affirm all things, deny all things, and confound and confuse all things, like some mad and hallucinating deity.” Only the god-like Book-Man, whose knowledge of the Library is an “honor and wisdom and joy,” can make sense of it for us. In the Library of Babel, the Book-Man is but a “superstition,” but on the Internet, his name is Google.
Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School. As of January 1, 2009, this Article is available for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/.