As Google has grown into the worldâ€™s most popular search engine and, arguably, the most powerful Internet company, it has become entangled in scores of lawsuits touching on a wide range of legal questions, including copyright violation, trademark infringement and its method of ranking Web sites.
Any company that is large and successful is going to attract lawsuits, and Googleâ€™s deep pockets make it an especially big target. But as it rushes to create innovative new services, Google sometimes operates in a way that almost seems to invite legal scrutiny.
A group of authors and publishers is challenging the companyâ€™s right to scan books that are still under copyright. A small Web site in California is suing Google because it was removed from the companyâ€™s search results. And European news agencies have sued over Googleâ€™s use of their headlines and photos in Google News.
In these cases and others, potential legal problems seem to give the company little pause before it plunges into new ventures.
â€œI think Google is wanting to push the boundaries,â€ said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University.
â€œThe Internet ethos of the 90â€™s, the expansionist ethos, was, â€˜Just do it, make it cool, make it great and weâ€™ll cut the rough edges off later,â€™ â€ Professor Zittrain said. â€œTheyâ€™re really trying to preserve a culture that says, â€˜Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you donâ€™t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.â€™ â€
A great idea; but can they afford it?