Google has two business strategies. One strategy is to ensure that the internet’s pipelines, both wired and wireless, can’t make money. It has lobbied for a ‘neutral’ internet, and sought to write the first technical regulations ever imposed on the internet – the first rulebook for operators. Robbing the retail networks (in the jargon, ‘access networks’, or ISPs) of the ability to generate value allows Google to concentrate the value instead in its vast data centres. It’s a peculiarly inefficient way of distributing bits, and precludes all kind of clever network innovation – but it’s the one that Google prefers. It’s where it has placed its bets.
The other strategy, more noticeable, helps ensure the destruction of the value of copyright. This permits Google to become, by default, the world’s royalty collection society, the only aggregator of digital value. As with internet advertising today, Google would set the royalty rates, weakening the ability of creators to negotiate collectively for better rates, as they do today. Newspapers, publishers and other media companies have only belatedly begun to come to terms with Google’s take-no-prisoners approach. For example, it took EMI Publishing six months to realise that Google had digitised its valuable sheet music collection, as part of its Google Books settlement, without asking. There are entire industries that don’t realise they’re in Google’s crossfire, until they’ve been shot, and the body carried from the battlefield.