Last week a bill was tabled in the American senate that would allow the Department of Justice to take out a court order against sites accused of infringing copyright. Google’s Erik Schmidt came out strongly against the bill in London on the 18th. Is this an attempt on Google to do no evil, or is there more at stake for the company here?
The bill, called PROTECT IP, would allow the Department of Justice to seek a court order against sites accused of copyright violations. The order would be served against ISPs, internet advertisers, domain name providers and search engines. The site thus targeted would be required to disappear as soon as possible.
Eric Schmidt said that Google would not support the bill if it were to be passed. He said: “"If there is a law that requires DNSs to do X and it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it.” ... “If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it."
On one hand, supporters of free speech are applauding Google’s stance. There are far too many stories of content creators who have had their content pulled due to DMCA violations that either were not violations or were an unfair use of a draconian law. Giving even more weight to that law seems unwise if your major concern is the freedom of information. Critics fear that the bill would give the government a way to vanish sites at will.
The central problem with Schmidt’s pronouncement is that Google’s stance has not been quite so clear in the past. Not long ago, the company was threatening to remove the Pirate Bay and other sites like it from AdSense, and attempting to stop block terms connected with piracy from the instant search function.
Even as recently as April, Google’s general counsel Kent Walker was in front of Congress testifying as to Google’s antipiracy solutions. He outlined what Google has done thus far, but did caution against strong antipiracy measures that might create problems of their own. He was not nearly as outspoken as Schmidt.
So, why the switch? Why is Google all of a sudden not quite so willing to give the boot to piracy sites? Could it have something to do with the fact that when it was in favor of restrictions on piracy sites, it was attempting to garner deals with the record industry for its music service? Now that it’s released the service without need for licenses, maybe it’s not quite so willing to play ball with the big label companies.
It’s refreshing to see someone willing to stand up to the government in favor of free speech. I only hope that Google’s motives have as much to do with rights as it does with their business strategies.
What are your thoughts? What do you think of Schmidt’s stance? What do you think of the US bill? Do you think the bill will pass?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.