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November 27, 2006

Copyright Crazy All Around the World

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Say you’re Google (or perhaps you’re Larry or Sergey since Google’s not actually human), how many times would you have to be sued for copyright infringement before you crash your own engine, pack up your index and go home (assuming you could still sell ad space on its dead remains of course)? Five times? Twenty times? Nine billion times?

Because that’s what it’s coming to. Google is going to be sued nine billion times for allowing publishers to have their content in the Google index. It amazes me how hard people kick to stay out of the Google and how loud they scream when they find their content getting free traffic and attention. And the "sue first, reason later" mentality of publishers is only getting worse and becoming more far reaching.

Here’s a look at some of the new global complaints and craziness:

Australia

Australian copyright law got a bit of coverage a few weeks back when bloggers discovered the country may be on its way back to the pre-Internet era thanks to proposed copyright law, but now there’s even more bad news coming from down under. MSNBC reports on proposed legislation that could make upload sites like YouTube illegal in Australia.

The trouble comes from wording in the new legislation that forbids using an iPod, home computer or other music or video player with the intention infringing on someone else’s copyright.

That means it’s just as illegal to upload copyrighted episodes of The Daily Show, as it is to upload a video of yourself performing your own rendition of your favorite ’80s song. I’m sorry, but I can’t support any law that tells me it’s wrong to upload videos of myself singing Rick Springfield while dancing around half naked using my purple hair brush mic. That’s just wrong and this legislation is ridiculous.

There has to be a line drawn that holds users responsible for what they upload. You can upload a video of your 1-year-old singing his ABCs, but you can’t upload the entire South Park catalog. Banning sites like YouTube or the use of an iPod won’t solve the copyright problem, it just makes people want to throw rocks at you.

France

More legal trouble for the boys of Mountain View and this time it hails from France. A French film producer has sued Google France for "distributing" the film "The World According to Bush" via Google Video. Flach Film, the production house responsible for the film you’re not interested in seeing anyway, is asking that Google be forced to "provide compensation" (almost $650,000 for more than 43,000 downloads), alleging that Google acted as a "fully responsible publisher" and not just a host for the infringement to take place. [I have more sympathy for these guys than the people who are putting their own content online and then complaining when Google finds it. Not a whole lot of sympathy but a little bit is more than none at all.--Susan] They get none for me. Do you know how many movies end up on Google Video or elsewhere? That’s life. Stop crying.

Perhaps the reason I feel the need to keep documenting these ridiculous lawsuits is because they completely infuriate me. How was Google a publisher of this content? They didn’t distribute the film. It was illegally uploaded to the site by a user who chose to ignore Google Video’s TOS and was then immediately removed once Google heard of its existence. Where’s the foul play on Google’s part? There is none. Google Video is as responsible for the misuse of this content as the movie theater owner who let a viewer inside with a video camera.

(Curious Blogger Note: Is this the film hinted at in Google’s quarterly filing where they mentioned they were named in a suit over a video that appeared briefly on their site? Or there is another lurking? Just wondering.)

Belgium

Speaking of infuriating copyright lawsuits, the latest regarding the Google/Belgium copyright war is that Google has reached an agreement with Sofamn and Scam, two of the Belgian copyright groups involved in the original Copiepresse suit. Combined, the two groups represent approximately 3,700 Belgium news photographers and journalists.

Google hasn’t released details of the deal so all we know is that it will allow Google to use the content. There’s no word whether it involved Google paying for the content, how the content can be used, or if they’ll try to recreate the arrangement with Copiepresse and Agence France-Press. It’d be nice to see all this settled. Personally, I’m over it.

Danny has extensive coverage over at Search Engine Watch here and here.

I suppose being the big dog means you’re going to be involved in a lot of frivolous lawsuits with publishers trying to squeeze every last dime out of you they can. But it’s wrong, and it’s distracting. Let Google concentrate on making these services better instead of figuring out how to make all the annoying people go away.

[The interesting thing about all this is that if these guys win, we're looking at a whole new ballgame. How many of the non-commercial sites are going to know that they should be explicitly giving permission? I take it all back, this is great for the search engine optimization community! Bring on the total lack of competition! Who cares if it's dreadful for the users? --Susan] – Just the thought of that makes me sad.

I have one piece of advice for all publishers out there, if you don’t want your content uploaded on the Web, don’t make any.

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