Google founded their business on “stealing” other people’s copyrighted online material. Then they moved on to printed books, our streets etc. They never asked if we want to be “robbed” – Google stick to the claim that its all for the good and they know better. Just like the white man did in Africa!
I do believe that the founders of Google really think that what they are doing is for the better of the world and mankind. But I am equally sure the same thing could be said about most of the white men throughout history that traveled the world; conquered land and stole all valuables.
And maybe it is. Maybe what Google intend to do will create a better world. I don’t think what the white man did in Africa did. And maybe, just maybe, what Google wants to do will not either. Only time can tell.
The big problem is that Google never ask. The white man did not ask either. They just took what they wanted to take. So do Google.
Even when there are laws to protect people from what Google do they don’t seem to care much – except if it turns out that they can make more money from it. China is a good example. Google – along with most other search engines, decided to put aside all ethics and goals of a better world in exchange for cool cash. Greed rules!
In last weeks comment by Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) in New York Times he argues how valuable it would be with digital access to all the worlds’ books (never mind the authors and publishers rights).
I agree, that would be very valuable. It would also be very valuable for the worlds programmers to have full access to all Google’s cool source code and for the hungry people of the world (or just the many in California alone) to go eat free food in one of the many restaurants at the Googleplex.
However, most of us will agree that Google have the right to keep their proprietary code to themselves and to only let people they invite eat at their restaurants. I also think we can all agree that not just Google have rights – we do too, the authors do and the publisher do. And in our part of the world this is controlled by our democratically elected lawmakers and legal systems.
The German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel made a point of that in her weekly podcast prior to the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair saying: “…we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection — like Google is doing.”
Sergey also argues that it’s so difficult to get a hold on many authors implying that it should be a legitimate reason for stealing their books. Google is not very easy to get a hold on either – does that mean we can just steal their code or food? Off course not! It’s simply not a valid argument in my mind.
I’ve heard a similar argument in the TV, film and TV-commercials business: We want to use this or that music but we can’t reach the song writers or they want way too much money for us to use it (typically in commercials). Please stop whining like little girls! We have a free market – if you want to use my music to sell your products then you pay my price or you can go make your own damn music!
Google wants to go ahead and make the book project an opt-out program – just like all their other data collection projects. So authors that for whatever reason don’t follow news, go online or know anything about Google will be giving away their books without even knowing about it. This is just not right. Not unless your policy is to drop all copyright laws – but I don’t really see Google fighting for that when it comes to their own copyrighted material. I don’t either.
Google also seems to think that all material that has been made available for US citizens fall under US copyright laws. It doesn’t! And I really hope the US lawmakers and legal system will not let Google get away with such an attack on the authors of the world.
I do think copyright laws should be improved – updated. Maybe something like CC (Creative Commons) would be better. I am not sure. But one thing I am sure about is that Google should not be the one to decide. We should! We, the people. We do, at least in our part of the world, have democracy. Voting rights are given to people – not companies, for good reasons.
I remember when Google started promoting the “PageRank” brand. They told us it was a “democratic model for the web” where links count as votes. I took a look and wondered – what a strange form of democracy!
I mean, with PageRank some sites have a lot of link voting power. Many sites have far less. And some sites have none – or close to none. What kind of screwed up democracy is that where the “überclass” have the majority of votes, middle class have some and the rest have nothing?
Maybe that was the same thinking behind the white men that conquered the world in the past centuries. Maybe Google just see them self as that “überclass” that don’t need to ask because they have all the voting power they need (the toolbar certainly indicate that).
I don’t think the founders of Google are evil. They are arrogant. There is a big difference. I don’t know if they always been like that or if it grew out of the tremendous success with their company (and all respect for that by the way!). But I do know that it is hurting their image very much and it makes it very, very hard to believe that they really want what is best for the world. Arrogance and greed go hand in hand and it don’t look nice.
So my best advice to Google would be to drop that historic white man arrogance and accept that we, the people rule the world today and if you want to change it you will have to convince us – not attack us.