Ducks come to the Congress: Google finally shows up to answer for “aiding and abetting theft”

Very interesting rogue sites hearing including Google’s general counsel aided by Fred Von Lohman, formerly of the EFF, Grokster and Limewire fame, who is hands down the #2 greatest enemy of professional creators in my view (right behind Lessig).

Here are a few highlights of the ducks of the day:

Chairman Goodlatte asks the logical question, why does Google suggest terms like find “bootleg movie” in Autocomplete?

[Mr. Walker, aka “Quack”]:  Autocomplete is not really Google knowing what you want, it’s just a machine that tells you what other users are interested in.  The reason that “bootleg”, etc., search terms comes up reinforces the need to educate the public about copyright crimes. 

Really.  And what nice crisp answer does Google have for children to educate them about copyright crimes?  Give me your Social Security number?

Not that Google could actually control its own autocomplete functionality, no, no it’s a machine it’s “automatic” not like humans tell it what to do.  But isn’t “autocomplete” a red herring, anyway?  The bright and shiny object Google want you to look at? Isn’t the point also what Google links to, not just autocomplete and don’t they want you arguing about autocomplete?

Quack: Autocomplete terms must be unique—could not include “knockoff” (at least not until they got to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz).  If Google could just figure out which terms, which words would unambiguously help users find grey market goods.  Yes, and in the meantime, Google will just keep selling ads aided and abetted by Autocomplete.

Chairman Goodlatte asked the very good question:  Why should Google link to the Pirate Bay and Isohunt?

Quack: Let’s deflect that one (since we know that the Pirate Bay are convicted criminals and Isohunt is “an admitted copyright thief”) and instead let’s talk about Baidu. 

Ah yes, let’s not talk about why Google is serving results from sites that have been criminally convicted, especially when Google accidentally blocked all Pirate Bay search results a few months ago.

But the Duck of the Day comes during questions by Rep. Linda Sanchez:

“What happens to the ad revenue that was generated on [a] site while it was hosting the infringing content, does the ad revenue go to the rights holder?”

Quack:  [After swallowing tongue] [yadda yadda yadda] Google stops payments to publishers and refunds money to advertisers.

Ms. Sanchez: But none of that money goes to the rights holder who’s being infringed upon?

Quack: [After swallowing tongue] it’s hard to know who the rights holders are.

Ah.  It’s hard to know who they are?  And why is that?  Perhaps because nobody has a license?  Just maybe that might have a little teenzy weensy bitty bit to do with it ducky?

And of course, Google keeps whatever it has made to date, and I would just love to see any evidence of these refunds due to infringement.  Limited to a single infringing work that was the subject of the notice, don’t you know.  I’m sure that’s a seamless system there from the smartest guys in the room.

Moreover, that answer itself obfuscates (a good EFF word) the truth and is extraordinarily evasive regarding a material point of the question from the IP subcommittee.  The correct answer should have been (A) that Google could not pay a share of advertising revenue to the rightsholder because the rightsholder had not agreed to accept a share of advertising revenue as compensation for the use of their film.  And probably never would; (B) the rightsholder was never asked what deal they would like to have; and (C) even if they rightsholder agreed to that deal, their revenue should be off the top–then Google could do what it liked with the revenue.

The other question that Rep. Sanchez did not ask was how much money does Google make from these sites.  In fact, the entire hearing went by without this question being asked of Google.

The major theme of the quacks was that Google wanted the Congress to believe that Google is not intentionally aiding and abetting crime.  Ah yes, Frank Costello must be smiling down (or up) from wherever he is.

2 thoughts on “Ducks come to the Congress: Google finally shows up to answer for “aiding and abetting theft”

  1. OK Chris – in your opinion. But – you’ve already admitted that your opinion doesn’t count. You are not a creator. You are a lawyer. Let’s face it. Your opinion is useless. Until Google decides to drop Music-Tech-Policy in their search results, at which time you’ll scream your fool head off.

    As a creator I’m perfectly happy to have Google help people find me. This is helped by the simple fact that there appears to be only one Wayne Borean in the entire world, or at least only one that Google knows about. Try it. Search on my name. You’ll end up at my site almost all of the time, and at a site one step away the rest of the time.

    Search Engines are the best thing that the rise of the internet brought. They are gradually freeing artists from the entertainment conglomerates. Of course this will also free artists from entertainment lawyers to a large extent, which probably explains why you, Barry Sookman, Richard Owens, et al are fighting such an intense retrograde action against artist freedom.

    The futurist in me is still working on putting this all together. Right now I have:

    1) No book stores in five years (except for antiquarians)
    2) Death of most of the publishing houses around the same time, maybe a bit later.
    3) Death of the large record labels in 5-10 years
    4) Growth of small specialty publishers (high quality, author signed, collectors items)
    5) Growth of small recording labels to fill the same niche
    6) Growth of low budget video production companies with high quality capabilities will damage the MPAA in the next 5 years. See Star Wreck, Sita Sings the Blues, and Nasty Old People for examples. MPAA to fragment, member companies mostly dead in 25 years.
    7) Death of the United States as a major financial cultural force in 15 years.

    Now there are a series of implications tied into those projections. The other English speaking countries will see a flowering of culture. The United States will also see a flowering of culture, but it won’t be controlled by the corporations, instead it will be controlled by the artists. Artists will lobby Congress for laws protecting them against corporate control, like we are already doing in Canada, with our request that Copyright be made non-transferable except by inheritance. If a corporation wishes to use a copyrighted work, they can lease it for a limited period of time, with no automatic renewals allowed, putting artists in the drivers seat.

    After all, this is all about the artists, isn’t it Chris. I distinctly remember you saying that the artists need to be protected. Here’s a way to do it. Why don’t you lobby your congressman or woman to enact it?



  2. this isn’t about me, but since you brought it up, I spent the first 15 years of my working life as a musician (including working with many Canadian artists) and songwriter so you won’t be surprised that I don’t much agree with you. You’re also wrong about lawyers having some kind of control over clients–all clients ever have to do is say the magic words “you’re fired” and I’m fired. And if you think that in a world where artist free agency is on the rise that record companies don’t know this, you must be thinking of Guy Hands, and that worked out so well for him.

    And by the way, this blog is blocked from search engines, so I actually do everything I can to keep Google from including the blog in search results.


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