Posted July 14, 2009 8:23 am by with 5 comments

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Law BooksIt wouldn’t be the Internet if there wasn’t just as much talk of legal action as there is of innovation. Google knows this better than anyone as they fend off lawsuits on a regular basis that are related (at least loosely in some cases) to their offerings and the apparent lines that are crossed by the search giant. Twitter has gotten a taste of that with the Tony LaRussa impersonation account issue. As a result, Twitter has just landed a bit of a catch by nabbing one of Google’s top lawyers.

According to the NY Times

Twitter, the popular micro-blogging service, has stolen a prominent Google lawyer.

The start-up has hired Alexander Macgillivray, deputy general counsel for products and intellectual property at Google, to be its general counsel, according to a person with knowledge of the hiring.

Interesting choice of words to describe the hire as stealing. I guess when you talk about lawyers it’s hard not to go there.

As Twitter grows they are obviously thinking that their legal concerns are going to grow right along with them. Considering the nature of business and the climate in which we live where one way to generate revenue is to sue someone (since the economy is still in the doldrums) Twitter is preparing for the inevitable.

Macgillivray is certainly very experienced from his time at Google.

Mr. Macgillivray has been an important member of the Google legal team, spearheading the controversial settlement with authors and book publishers over Google’s scanning of millions of out of-print library books. The settlement, if accepted by a federal judge, will clear the way for Google to make available online millions of historic books that would otherwise be difficult to find. The Justice Department has said it is inquiring into whether that settlement violates antitrust laws.

Of course, the damage that Google feels from this remains to be seen since they are still in the throes of that lawsuit and there is significant money at stake based on that decision. Macgillivray seems to have been instrumental in some of the landmark cases that Google has fought to this point including the Viacom copyright lawsuit against YouTube and represented Google when the Associated Press was crying that Google was not using their content properly.

So Twitter is certainly being smart about this. As they move toward new areas to generate revenue it is likely that will step on plenty of legal toes either intentionally or unintentionally. By nabbing an industry ‘superstar’ Twitter is certainly sending the signal that they are serious about protecting their territory.

Expansion is on the mind of Twitter as they look to bring on more engineers in addition to a chief financial officer. Looks like Twitter is really growing up and is bracing itself for the inevitable legal growing pains that are part of any start up ‘success story’. I wonder if Mr. Macgillivray can do a legal brief in 140 characters or less?