This is much, much bigger than Google’s terms of service, and that became obvious as events unfolded on Wednesday.
In the end, Google is looking like a serious hypocrite, and the RIAA the predictable bully.
For those just tuning in, Google unceremoniously yanked the Grooveshark app from its Android Store on Wednesday morning (original story below). Fast-forward a few hours later to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, and that was aiding Google’s anti-piracy case (complete hearing video here). “I want to commend you for a news release which I will put in the record,” US Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) told testifying Google attorney Kent Walker. “It says ‘Google Boots Grooveshark from Android Market.’ Grooveshark is a music app that has been found by many of the top music labels to be violating copyright law… We commend you for that.”
Of course, the timing was perfect (imagine that), and Walker expounded upon the many apps that get removed for violating Google’s stern terms. But that only bought Walker a small amount of breathing room – Goodlatte wasn’t grilling Walker by any stretch, though he did raise serious questions about ‘free MP3’ search results. In a search for ‘Taylor Swift free MP3s,’ Goodlatte staffers found just two authorized sites within a list of 30 – with the first appearing after 14 illegal options. And, Goodlatte noticed little-to-no improvement over a multi-month period. “What is Google doing about this?” Goodlatte questioned.
Of course, Walker fell back on the good ol’ DMCA. “We play the wack-a-mole problem just as much as the content industry does, and it frustrates us,” Walker said. “We are in the best position to rapidly remove content… the content industry is in the best position to let us know what’s authorized and what’s not. The music industry is a very complicated place.”
But haven’t we heard this same rap before… from Grooveshark? “Google is traditionally a supporter of DMCA-compliant services – indeed, Google itself relies on the DMCA for the very same protection that Grooveshark does,” Grooveshark executive Aaron Ford told Digital Music News.
In other words, they’re both playing the same game. And of course, it turns out that the RIAA is also playing a very heavy hand in all of this. Ford noted that “Google received a letter of complaint from the RIAA,” also timed perfectly ahead of the launch of Google Music. But that letter should have been about Google itself, whose contribution to piracy makes Grooveshark look like a tadpole.