When a page of history is worth a volume of logic–in the history of the UK’s Digital Economy Act, Google’s lobbyists did the same thing to the Brits that they tried to do to Americans (several times) in the form of a section to the Digital Economy Act (Section 43) that would have opened the doors to the rampant abuses that only Google could have afforded to litigate. Visual artsts are the ones who are most affected by these laws, and they founded a campaign in the UK called “Stop43“, a reference to the bizarre section of the Digital Economy Act that would have handed Google all the free content they could steal. Stop43 has a short recap of their history online that is well worth reading. Then be sure to read the anti-copyright organizational handbook Winning the Web (funded by the Open Society Institute), and tell me if you still don’t believe that there is an orchestrated campaign in major economies to undermine artist rights.
Stop43 has an excellent series of posts demonstrating that the UK government is not able to introduce laws that undermine the human rights of artists:
“The Human Rights Act 1998 restrains the Government from introducing legislation that is not compliant with human rights legislation, and indeed reading Section 6 it may be unlawful for civil servants even to draw up such legislation. When asked at a pre-consultation meeting on 23rd August 2011 attended by Stop43, among others, Matt Cope of the Intellectual Property Office confirmed that new UK legislation must be compliant with the Human Rights Act 1998.
It follows that any proposed legislation to enable the commercial use of orphan works or the extended collective licensing of copyright works, which is intended to result in a copyright holder in practice being ‘deprived of his possessions’ without his knowledge or consent (which Mr. Justice Arnold has judged to be the consequence for rightsholders of piracy of their copyright work) would breach Article 1 of the First Protocol of the Human Rights Act 1998.”
Notwithstanding the controversial report of the consultant to the UN Human Rights Council, Stop43 make an important point, and a point that American visual artists would do well to take note of in anticipation of the coming battle over orphan works–these laws violate the human rights of artists.
See also Artist Rights are Human Rights
See also Unhand that Orphan
1. Terraplane Sun (Malibu) “Funnel of Love” @terraplanesun
2. Wise Blood (Houston) “Loud Mouths”
3. I Break Horses (Stockholm) “Load Your Eyes”
4. French Films (Helsinki) “Golden Sea”
5. The Bonnevilles (Lurgan) “Good Suits and Fighting Boots” @thebonnevilles
The August edition of Music Tech Policy Monthly is out featuring the MTP interview with indie film makers Jason Stall and Topper McDaniel about indie film making in the age of piracy, a continuation of 20 Questions for New Artists, featured artist Slowtrain from Austin and the other regular features.
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“Well, well, well you’re feeling fine…”
Dr. Robert by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
In more amazing hubris from Google, a company spokesperson announced that despite being tagged with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, civil fines in history for advertising the illegal sale of drugs online, the company will not be discussing the matter further given the extensive coverage of Google’s settlement with the Department of Justice to avoid jail time. I’m sure the Congress will be so pleased to be told by a defendant that they are not going to speak about the matter when Eric Schmidt finally shows up on September 21 to testify before Congress on Google’s wrongdoings.
What am I talking about you say? Well, don’t you know? Given the extensive coverage the case has received, why would you need to ask?
Google’s “Pill Problem”
The Department of Justice press release states:
““This investigation is about the patently unsafe, unlawful, importation of prescription drugs by Canadian on-line pharmacies, with Google’s knowledge and assistance, into the United States, directly to U.S. consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Neronha. “It is about taking a significant step forward in limiting the ability of rogue on-line pharmacies from reaching U.S. consumers, by compelling Google to change its behavior. It is about holding Google responsible for its conduct by imposing a $500 million forfeiture, the kind of forfeiture that will not only get Google’s attention, but the attention of all those who contribute to America’s pill problem.””
According to the Wall Street Journal:
“Search giant Google Inc. has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into allegations that it improperly accepted ads from online Canadian pharmacies that import prescription drugs into the United States. [Read a copy of the plea agreement.]
Google agreed to forfeit $500 million it earned in ad revenue from the Canadian pharmacies, one of the largest ever forfeitures in the United States, the Justice Department announced in a statement.
The DOJ said that it is almost always illegal to import prescription drugs into the U.S., because the FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of the foreign drugs.
Google was aware as early as 2003, the DOJ said in the statement, that generally it was illegal for pharmacies to ship controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the U.S. ‘The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable companies who in their bid for profits violate federal law and put at risk the health and safety of American consumers,’Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.”
Greed is Google
To paraphrase Gordon Gekko: “Greed is Google.” The upshot of this whole thing is that Google decided that they would rather risk the harm to consumers–all consumers, including kids–and make a fast buck from advertisements for counterfeit drugs and illegally prescribed drugs. The enormity of their violation and the vileness of the behavior is rather hard to comprehend. What does it cost to keep Eric Schmidt out of jail? $500 million of the shareholders money.
Is he worth it? Does anyone know if “users” died while benefiting from Google’s “pill problem”?
Missing from the Settlement: Wrongful Death
Here’s the problem in a nutshell (from the Washington Post in 2003): “In July 2001, regulators at the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy noticed something unusual among the reams of data that flow into the busy agency each day. Buried along with the other numbers was a report from a small Internet pharmacy that had filled 1,105 prescriptions for painkillers and other dangerous drugs that month.
The same tiny pharmacy had dispensed just 17 prescriptions in the prior six months.
Virtually overnight, prescriptiononline.com had become one of the largest distributors of controlled substances in Nevada. Over the next year, the online pharmacy shipped nearly 5 million doses of highly addictive drugs to customers scattered across the country. By the time regulators shut the Las Vegas firm in January, prescriptiononline.com accounted for 10 percent of all hydrocodone sold in Nevada, regulators said.”
This is exactly the kind of human misery that Google profited from and for which it is being punished.
Google Employees Caught in Sting Operation Creating Ad Campaign for Illegal Drugs
According to the Associated Press, “A separate U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into drugs that claimed to be manufactured in Canada found that 85 percent of the drugs examined came from 27 different countries, including some that were found to be counterfeit, said Kathleen Martin-Weis, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
Investigators noted that Google did not allow online pharmacies from any other country aside from Canada to advertise to American consumers. [A sophisticated level of filtering by ad type, country of origin and country of destination--but they can't stop infringments.]
The probe did not touch the overseas online pharmacies, Neronha said, because American officials did not have the authority to bring charges. .
Investigators snared Google’s ad system by creating seven undercover websites offering prescription drugs to be sold without a prescription or the completion of an online medical questionnaire, Martin-Weis said. An undercover investigator informed Google employees creating the advertising for the products that they were manufactured overseas and did not require that customers have a valid prescription, she said.
“In each instance, despite this knowledge, Google employees created a full advertising campaign for each of the undercover websites,” Martin-Weis said.”
This will sound familiar to anyone who remembers how Google employees extended credit to pirate websites.
Human Misery is an Entree at the Googleplex
It will also sound familiar to Senator Diane Feinstein who authored the Ryan Haight Bill which became the Internet Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act–that would be Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee that unanimously passed both COICA and the Protect IP Act.
Google clearly profited from exactly the kind of behavior that the Ryan Haight Bill was designed to prevent. But the unanswered question is what role Google played in the addiction and death of other kids like Ryan Haight? The company says they are shutting up about their role in promoting these tragedies–for good reason.
The wrongful death suits or state law manslaughter charges against Google and its employees may well be next.
It’s amazing what you can find out with a wire tap.
“Do no evil” vs. “Don’t be evil”
So look back at Google’s actions from the last year and they’re mostly in line with this credo… to make [Google] better for users.[Helping addicts find cheap dope and get around controlled substances laws passed by the people to protect addicts]
Sometimes the line gets blurry, particularly with acquisitions — buying travel information provider ITA looked a lot like Google was trying to own a supplier of critical data to a competitor, Microsoft’s Bing [or promoting the sale of illegal drugs]. (Did Google really need to OWN it to provide better travel search results?)
But if avoiding evil means pleasing customers, that’s just smart business.
And that’s why Google is winning.”
Well…if “users” means drugs users and if “winning” for the stockholders means the management team buying their way out of prison for $500 million. And I think that the American Gangster drug dealer Frank Lucas would heartily agree–his Blue Magic heroin gave customers twice the high for half the price. The means justify the ends.
By Google’s standards, neither Eric Schmidt nor Frank Lucas did evil in selling drugs because “users” were better off. Both profited from human misery. Which leaves the same question that has been asked every time Google gets caught doing increasingly vile acts:
Where is the board?
In a curious twist of fate, another major Creative Commons contributor also paid a whopping $300 million fine to the Department of Justice. Glad to see that the friends of Lessig are doing their part to retire the National Debt.
See also Don Henley on the Protect IP Act
Don Henley’s opinion piece in USA Today (“Internet Theft is a Job Killer, Too”) lays out the problems that Google has with Protect IP–they make way too much money off of advertising for illegal drugs, products, music, games and film. Since for every action there’s a reaction, the income transfer to Google also results in a loss of jobs for American workers. Henley makes the case that Google’s profit from misery extends to selling advertising for illegal drugs, especially prescription drugs that are sold with illegal prescriptions to under age kids. As Lessig would say, they need to stop criminalizing our kids.
Update: According to the New York Times, Google has as of 8/24/11 agreed to pay a $500 million fine to the U.S. Government to avoid a criminal prosecution for the sale of advertising promoting the sale of illegal drugs and illegal prescriptions. (Read the plea agreement.) More to come on this, but it looks like Google could have stopped taking any advertising from rogue drug sites, but chose not to–because it didn’t scale. No word yet on how many deaths are attributed to Google’s advertisers.
Update: Henley’s editorial is mocked by a Google consultant who is also an EFF board member (shocker) and of course caused the usual counterstatement: “EFF opposes this legislation not because we support intellectual property infringement (we don’t) but because the bill proposes troubling ways to try to address it.” Really. How about the $1 million from Google the EFF recently received, the former EFF employees who went to work for Google after their Limewire debacle, and the EFF’s advice to p2p operators to obscure data to obstruct prosecution for copyright infringement? Pure coincidence.
Google’s Drug Problem
Google’s drug business alone has attracted a $500 million fine and an investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice, well documented by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN’s broadcast–all of which could have been avoided if Eric Schmidt had not simply ignored an entreaty from Joseph Califano to work together with him to stop the sale of illegal drugs that was killing American children.
How could Schmidt have possibly ignored a letter from a former cabinet secretary to two Presidents (of the United States)? We polled a couple of digital natives and got a plausible explanation: (a) it was a letter sent by snail mail and not email, (b) Califano is so old, and (c) why didn’t he send a text message if it was so important! Ah, yes, communicating with Google is all about the toys.
Read the inspiring Don Henley editorial and think about what you would say to your local paper.
See also “Independent Austin Artists Speak Out: It’s Not Victimless“
“best free pirated music on Android market 2011″
You can’t make this stuff up.
New Music Weekend: Snake Plissken, Phantogram, Man Without Country, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Porcelain Raft
1. Porcelain Raft (London) “Gone Blind” @porcelainraft
2. Kurt Vile & The Violators (Philadelphia) “Baby’s Arms”
3. Man Without Country (Cardiff) “King Complex” @mwc_music
4. Phantogram (Saratoga Springs) “Mouthful of Diamonds” @sarahbarthel @phantogram
5. Snake Plissken (Stirling) “Mindset”
Interesting reading–the objectors to the class action settlement in the freelance authors case have prevailed in the 2nd Circuit. The issues in “Freelance” were nearly identical to those in the Google Books settlement–not surprisingly involving the same lawyers for the authors so once the artifice in one is shot down it is shot down for both.
This may have been the nail in the coffin for Google Books. Not that it matters. Scanning, scanning, scanning continues. The whole litigation was a bright and shiny object if you ask me. Designed to deflect attention from the criminal levels of copyright infringement by Google. (In the books case, not to take anything away from the criminal levels of infringement in other cases.)
It’s time for the Department of Justice to act.
I can’t wait to hear the reaction from the Anthony Wiener of the Copyleft–they’re like old dude.