By Janus, I think no…
Othello, Act 1, Scene 2, by William Shakespeare
Information Wants to be Monetized
In an excellent analysis, Ben Sisario of the New York Times almost puts his finger on Google’s problem with professional artists. He identifies both sides of what would appear to be a kind of split personality at Google, but like Edward Norton’s riveting portrayal of the good “Aaron” and evil “Roy” in Primal Fear, these are actually two faces of the same really smart, but really sick puppy. AKA The New Boss or as we know them, The Man 2.0.
(Sisario’s article is an important read, see “For the Music Industry, A Story of Two Googles“)
In August, Google said it would take into account notices of copyright violation — of which the music industry files thousands each week — in determining a site’s search rank. The implication was that infringing sites would fall into obscurity and consumers would “find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,” as Amit Singhal, a senior Google executive, wrote in a company blog post at the time.
We have been hearing about these “measures” that Google is taking for years now, and no matter when these utterances occur, they all have one thing in common: Nobody seems to implement the measures, they are ineffective, Google keeps driving traffic to pirate sites and Google keeps profiting from piracy. Oh, and more recently, Google has been shooting up the squid ink of Google Play and Rightsflow, Google Fiber and YouTube to give themselves the appearance of being team players. They have even managed to pick off a few people from the music business to dress up this charade, but it doesn’t change anything. But like Operation Bodyguard, these are largely grand deceptions.
Why would I say that these are deceptions? YouTube itself is not a deception, clearly. YouTube exists and is a triumph of infringement in the Age of Google. YouTube itself isn’t the deception. Like Norton’s character in Primal Fear, the deception is that there will ever be a time when Roy isn’t calling the shots. When it comes to Google, Roy is not going anywhere.
14 Million Flies Can’t Be Wrong
The RIAA, which is one of the few organizations left in the music industry that can fund this kind of study, determined what we already knew would be the case–Google was full of it. As Sisario puts it:
But the recording industry association, which is controlled by the major record companies, said that after testing Google’s searches, it still found plenty of infringing sites. “Six months later, we have found no evidence that Google’s policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy,” the report said.
At one point in the 15-page report, for example, the R.I.A.A. says that for many popular music searches, sites for which Google had received more than 1,000 copyright complaints were “almost eight times more likely to appear in the top 10 search results than a well-known, authorized music download site.” The report also shows, however, that sites for which Google has received more than 10,000 copyright removal requests appear less frequently than those which have received more than 1,000.
Is anyone surprised? Clearly not at the Cato Institute, which offered its usual brand of bulletproof analysis:
Let’s drill down on that erudite commentary, however, and think about the implications of the report in context.
As we noted here on MTP, Google has been desperately trying to keep Roy in check for some time now. For example, Roy popped out when Google was nearly indicted for selling prescription drugs online in violation of a variety of drug laws. Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (former Health and Human Services Secretary under President Carter) appealed to Google’s Eric Schmidt in 2008 to stop advertising illegal drugs that could (were and are) easily bought by children online. When Aaron said, don’t be evil, Roy didn’t care.
When Google got the idea that the US Government was going after infringers in a big way, despite Google planting their own man Andrew McLaughlin in the White House, they came out with a major burst of ink vowing to be well behaved. None of it happened, we saw the return of Grooveshark, and Roy still ruled the roost at the Googleplex.
Then came the Utoopi sex club app (Android only) that confirmed the worst suspicions of Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Marsha Blackburn voiced to Larry Page in the context of the Village Voice Media debacle over profiting from human trafficking ads. Despite assurances from Google to Maloney and Blackburn, Roy still managed to get the Utoopi app in place to pimp out teens.
In a notable failure of Google’s “conservative outreach” at places like Cato, conservative blog RedState actually broke the story about the Utoopi app (“Google Profits from Sex Trafficking” by Breeanne Howe), followed closely by Firedoglake (“Google Pulls Sex App Marketed to Students From Google Play” by Jane Hamsher).
Roy said “Waaaah.”
Can We Stop Pretending Google isn’t Intentionally Defective?
So the bottom line is this: If a company makes a product that causes as much random harm as Google, at some point it stops being “disruptive” and starts being “mayhem”. Perhaps willful mayhem. This is particularly the case when a company keeps distributing a product it knows to be defective because it profits them to do so.
When Ford made the Pinto, did the law find that exploding gas tanks were “disruptive”? Did society allow Ford to escape liability for any exploding gas take because Ford made a lot of them?
Let’s stop kidding each other, please. Roy is running the tables at Google. And here’s how you know–whether its profiting from piracy from ad sales or search, the Google response is always a nondenial denial because Roy doesn’t want to get caught. It’s no fun if you get caught. What’s fun is “catch me if you can”–you know, the DMCA.
In response to the report, a Google spokesman said in a statement: “We have invested heavily in copyright tools for content owners and process takedown notices faster than ever. In the last month we received more than 14 million copyright removal requests for Google Search, quickly removing more than 97 percent from search results.
In addition, Google’s growing partnerships and distribution deals with the content industry benefit both creators and users, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the industry each year.”
But Google can’t quite say they don’t do it–14 million flies can’t be wrong. Like Norton’s character in Primal Fear, Aaron may make excuses for Roy’s bad behavior, but Roy comes in at the end and reminds creators not to jack with him or he’ll cut off the trickle of money that is increasingly keeping them alive.
And just wait until Google is driving traffic to 3d printing files ripping off the same products being advertised by the Fortune 500 companies that are Google Adsense clients buying advertising inventory from the very same pirate sites. Very disruptive!
Don’t be evil, ya’ll.