Ducks come to the Congress: Google finally shows up to answer for “aiding and abetting theft”
Very interesting rogue sites hearing including Google’s general counsel aided by Fred Von Lohman, formerly of the EFF, Grokster and Limewire fame, who is hands down the #2 greatest enemy of professional creators in my view (right behind Lessig).
Here are a few highlights of the ducks of the day:
Chairman Goodlatte asks the logical question, why does Google suggest terms like find “bootleg movie” in Autocomplete?
[Mr. Walker, aka “Quack”]: Autocomplete is not really Google knowing what you want, it’s just a machine that tells you what other users are interested in. The reason that “bootleg”, etc., search terms comes up reinforces the need to educate the public about copyright crimes.
Really. And what nice crisp answer does Google have for children to educate them about copyright crimes? Give me your Social Security number?
Not that Google could actually control its own autocomplete functionality, no, no it’s a machine it’s “automatic” not like humans tell it what to do. But isn’t “autocomplete” a red herring, anyway? The bright and shiny object Google want you to look at? Isn’t the point also what Google links to, not just autocomplete and don’t they want you arguing about autocomplete?
Quack: Autocomplete terms must be unique—could not include “knockoff” (at least not until they got to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz). If Google could just figure out which terms, which words would unambiguously help users find grey market goods. Yes, and in the meantime, Google will just keep selling ads aided and abetted by Autocomplete.
Chairman Goodlatte asked the very good question: Why should Google link to the Pirate Bay and Isohunt?
Quack: Let’s deflect that one (since we know that the Pirate Bay are convicted criminals and Isohunt is “an admitted copyright thief”) and instead let’s talk about Baidu.
Ah yes, let’s not talk about why Google is serving results from sites that have been criminally convicted, especially when Google accidentally blocked all Pirate Bay search results a few months ago.
But the Duck of the Day comes during questions by Rep. Linda Sanchez:
“What happens to the ad revenue that was generated on [a] site while it was hosting the infringing content, does the ad revenue go to the rights holder?”
Quack: [After swallowing tongue] [yadda yadda yadda] Google stops payments to publishers and refunds money to advertisers.
Ms. Sanchez: But none of that money goes to the rights holder who’s being infringed upon?
Quack: [After swallowing tongue] it’s hard to know who the rights holders are.
Ah. It’s hard to know who they are? And why is that? Perhaps because nobody has a license? Just maybe that might have a little teenzy weensy bitty bit to do with it ducky?
And of course, Google keeps whatever it has made to date, and I would just love to see any evidence of these refunds due to infringement. Limited to a single infringing work that was the subject of the notice, don’t you know. I’m sure that’s a seamless system there from the smartest guys in the room.
Moreover, that answer itself obfuscates (a good EFF word) the truth and is extraordinarily evasive regarding a material point of the question from the IP subcommittee. The correct answer should have been (A) that Google could not pay a share of advertising revenue to the rightsholder because the rightsholder had not agreed to accept a share of advertising revenue as compensation for the use of their film. And probably never would; (B) the rightsholder was never asked what deal they would like to have; and (C) even if they rightsholder agreed to that deal, their revenue should be off the top–then Google could do what it liked with the revenue.
The other question that Rep. Sanchez did not ask was how much money does Google make from these sites. In fact, the entire hearing went by without this question being asked of Google.
The major theme of the quacks was that Google wanted the Congress to believe that Google is not intentionally aiding and abetting crime. Ah yes, Frank Costello must be smiling down (or up) from wherever he is.