Google Declares: We Can Find the Pirates, We Can Report Them to the Authorities…

In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt had some advice for those who want to protect their creative output from unlicensed exploitation: follow the money.

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When asked if copyright can work as a shared responsibility, he replied: “Follow the money. If people are making money by stealing copyright, we can find them because the money has to go somewhere.  If you just randomly copy something just because you’re a jerk, it’s not going to be a big deal.

“But if you’re a company that sets up to steal information, which is highly illegal, we can find the money, and we can report you to the authorities.”

Hmm…  who is this “we” Schmidt is referring to?  Google?  When has Google ever reported anyone to the authorities for copyright infringement?  Is it going to start doing so now?

Google’s UK policy manager, Theo Bertram, didn’t get Schmidt’s memo.  Taking part in a debate on ad-funded piracy this past week, along with the UK public policy manager of the Internet Advertising Bureau and David Lowery, Bertram declared:

“It’s not Google’s job to go around the web to declare whether sites are legal or illegal, but if Coca-Cola comes to us and says ‘here’s a list of 500 dynamic sites, and we don’t want you to place ads on those…’ that’s a slightly different thing.

Bertram and the IAB told the audience how difficult it is to prevent the ads of major brands from ending up next to infringing content, due to the complexity of the “internet advertising ecosystem” and its intermediaries.  So, Lowery asked, how come you never ever see a Coca-Cola ad on these sites?

So let’s recap: if you set up a company with the aim to steal ‘information,’ Google can find the money and report you to the authorities – yet it’s not Google’s job to declare what’s legal or illegal.  Besides, it’s incredibly difficult to prevent ads of major brands to end up on pirate sites – except if the brands themselves give Google a list of “undesirable sites”.

Then Google somehow manages to do it.

Make sense?

6 Responses

  1. John

    Google would be in deep trouble if it reported anyone to the authorities for copyright infringement, except for its own copyrights. That is because only the copyright owner has the exclusive right to authorize (or not) the reproduction, public performance, public display, etc. of its works.

    This particular comment is copyrighted automatically, as I write it, by act of law. It is entirely up to me — not Google — to authorize the reproduction or public display of it. And, if without my express authority, all of you readers out there choose to reproduce it or display it publicly without my permission, it is still up to me, and only me, to choose whether to do anything about it. How does Google know whether I wouldn’t be thrilled if this post went viral? How does Google know whether or not I have granted permission? How does Google decide whether your use is a non-infringing fair use? If Google reports you to the authorities, Google would be infringing my copyright by interfering with my exclusive right to “do or to authorize” the reproduction and public display of this work.

  2. GGG

    Giant corporation acts in their own self-interest no matter what the situation? I don’t believe it.

  3. earbits

    I think you’ve missed the mark here.

    “We” refers to legal businesses with protectable IP. He is saying, if you setup a site that aims to steal content, we copyright owners can follow the money, or report you to the authorities.

    Examples of following the money are David Lowery’s attempts to get advertisers off of massively infringing sites. Reporting to the authorities is prosecuting Grooveshark.

    Google’s role in this is to:

    – protect their own IP

    – allow advertisers to block their ads from appearing on sites they feel violate their or others’ copyrights

    – block sites they have a legal obligation to

    It is not Google’s job to report sites they believe are infringing on others’ IP to the authorities. It would make no sense to do so. It is also not appropriate or efficient for them to make judgment calls about which sites are legal or acceptable distributors of copyrighted material. If they did, and they started penalizing sites that are legal, they’d have lawsuits on their hands and the whole world complaining about Google playing cyber cop. They simply cannot win.

    As an aside, our company is completely legal, streaming only material we have licensed from masters owners. As of right now, we are unable to buy Adwords because Google thinks we’re marketing copyrighted material and they don’t know whether we’re legally licensed to do so. Frankly, it sucks. We are completely legal and are being banned by Google from promoting our business because they “think” we might not be legal. This is what happens when Google plays cyber cop. Good businesses are penalized, while infringing sites still find workarounds.

    Is that really how you want it?

    • Visitor

      It has always been the legal system’s job to determine copyright infringement.

    • Visitor

      “He is saying, if you setup a site that aims to steal content, we copyright owners can follow the money, or report you to the authorities.”

      Well, then there is the other interpretation:

      “We, Google, can find them. In fact, we already know who they are — the pirates, the drug dealers, the pedophiles, the murderers, the … What did you say? Does that make us accessories to crime?”

      Hm, let’s see:

      § 18-8-105. Accessory to crime

      A person is an accessory to crime if, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for the commission of a crime, he renders assistance to such person.

  4. Bill a copyright owner

    with over 300 billion dollars stolen from US IP and copyright owners last year according to the Economist issue last month, companies like Google are a joke. Like they said” If Coke, wants this or that they will do it”. I haven’t seen Coke with a lose of 300 billion, if it did, they would raise hell and be out of business. Google either needs to stand up, or shut up. Lies and continued promises do not help the theift of IP and © owners.

    Google your move…….