Google Is Evil, Again

Yeah, those evil search dudes againIs it just me, or is there something a bit odd about Microsoft jumping on the Google Is Evil bandwagon? I mean, has Google been crawling through Microsoft's archives, thereby exposing snippets of copyrighted MS software to the world? Or has Microsoft gone into the business of publishing something besides software?

According to today's Microsoft's Copyright Assault on Google article at, Microsoft attorney Thomas Rubin certainly seemed unimpressed with Google during the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers recently, blasting the search giant for "systematically violat[ing] copyright." This, he said, "undermines critical incentives to create."

As it turns out, Microsoft's reason for lobbing grenades at Google may have nothing to do with a plan to get into the publishing business per se, and everything to do with its new Live Search Books product, which arrives some two years after the well-known Google Book Search made its debut. It's about alliances, in this instance with certain publishers who are less than thrilled with Google's reach, and what they perceive as the free distribution of copyrighted material.

So how bad is Google, really? Are they the scofflaws some paint them as, or are they providing priceless, global exposure that ultimately results in increased revenue for those who create the works in question? If you happen to believe the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the latter answer—again from the previously mentioned article—is the more accurate.

But Google has more legal ground to stand on than Microsoft may think, says Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann. For a judge to rule that Google's digitizing content is not "fair use" and compliant with U.S. copyright law, lawyers would have to prove that Google Book Search is harming the market for the original content. A short excerpt, says von Lohmann, shouldn't keep someone from buying a book. In fact, he thinks it should entice them to go to the library or make a purchase. "I certainly hope that, when the dust settles on this lawsuit, people won't remember the copyright lawsuit—they will just remember that Google opened the doors for what will ultimately become the greatest thing since the Library of Alexandria," says von Lohmann.

Personally, I'm going to bet on the EFF's grasp of the situation. Besides, we're talking about Google here, not some predatory organization bent on destruction, or simply trying to get as fat as possible at any cost. Where's the malice?


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