Microsoft Corporation looks like it’s willing to up the ante in its growing confrontation with Internet titan Google, calling Google’s stance toward copyright protections “cavalier” and claiming the company’s business model “systematically violates copyright.”
In prepared remarks for the Association of American Publishers, Microsoft general counsel Tom Rubin argues that Google’s business model is essentially to freely take content prepared and produced by others, then “rak[e] in billions through advertising revenue and IPOs.” Google’s success, he argues, comes off the backs of the creators, producers, and publishers or books, video, and software.
Rubin’s comments run parallel to assertions being made in a copyright infringement lawsuit against Google by five major book publishers and organized by the trade group Rubin will be addressing. Rubin also sides with publisher’s in criticizing Google Books, a project in which Google plans to scan the entire contents of both public domain and copyright works and make them available via the Web. Google Books makes entire copies of copyrighted material, but shows only snippets of those pieces to users. Rubin sums up Google’s pitch: “In essence, Google is saying to you and to other copyright owners: ‘Trust us— you’re protected. We’ll keep the digital copies secure, we’ll only show snippets, we won’t harm you, we’ll promote you.'”
Google believes its actions fall under so-called “fair use” exceptions to copyright law, and that the company doesn’t need to ask for permission from copyright holders before making its copies. Microsoft currently takes the position that permission must first be obtained from copyright holders before making a digital copy of their work, even if end users only see excerpts. “Concocting a novel ‘fair use’ theory,” writes Rubin, “Google bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books not covered by these publisher agreements without first obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.” Rubin goes on to assert that Google’s recent acquisition of popular video sharing site YouTube is a further demonstration of the company’s “cavalier” approach to copyright, and characterizes Google’s track record on copyright protection as “weak at best.”
Rubin’s remarks are clearly intended to position Microsoft—and its Live Book Search product, currently in beta—as a better long-term partner for the publishing and content production industries when compared to Google. However, Rubin’s remarks aren’t without irony: while Google has at least made claims it will implement technologies to detect and prevent uploading of copyright-violating videos uploaded to YouTube, Microsoft is taking a no-filter stance with its beta via sharing site Soapbox. In a memo to movie and television industry executives last week, Microsoft said it will work closely with them to take down infringing content uploaded to the service, but doesn’t plan to implement automated filtering technologies to detect and prevent upload of infringing content.