Editor Explains Why Google Is Immoral

from the please-stop-reading-Charles-Cooper dept

Everyone, please stop reading the articles of CNET’s Charles Cooper. I’m taking on the big risk of incurring his wrath for daring to point to his latest column, where he rips into Google and others for their “immoral” behavior of daring to help people find content. I can’t figure out if this is just a column-sized troll attempt, or if Cooper just didn’t bother to think through what he wrote. He first points to the recent ruling in Belgium that forced Google News to stop linking to certain publications and declares that it’s about time (while failing to note that his own articles can all be easily found via Google News). He’s apparently upset that we’re not having a discussion over whether “it’s perfectly all right to profit from another company’s content without permission and without payment.” First of all, this isn’t true. That debate has been happening at great length throughout the world for quite some time. It’s not hard to find it if you do a quick search on Goo… oh, I get it. Cooper won’t use Google, because, after all, it’s simply profiting on the works of others without payment or permission.

What Cooper is really demonstrating is the power of jealousy to overwhelm a good business sense or any understanding of economics (and he trots out the old, wrong, line that copyright infringement is theft suggesting he also doesn’t understand the law). He’s wrong on both counts to say that Google does this without permission or without payment. On the permission side, the second you put something up on the web without any protections or logins, you are giving permission to have that content visited and for people to point to it. There’s no copyright violation at all in including a blurb (Cooper does understand fair use, I assume). So, there’s no problem there. As for “payment,” Cooper seems to have forgotten that not all payment is directly in monetary terms. Google “pays” sites by making their content easier to find so they get a lot more traffic. In other words, Google is improving the usefulness of the sites in its index. It’s helping people find articles like Cooper’s so that CNET gets more traffic which they can sell to advertisers so Cooper gets paid. Yes, they’re making his content more valuable. And the amazing thing is that they’re helping make Cooper’s content more valuable (gasp!) without charging him! I think, perhaps, it’s time that Google send Cooper’s bosses at a bill. Anything else would be “immoral,” according to Cooper’s own logic.

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Comments on “ Editor Explains Why Google Is Immoral”

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cosined says:

Weak Arguement

I was blown away by the article. Too many people consider the web to be an extension of real world industries. I don’t have a problem with the protection of intellectual property, and for the most part I can understand the music and movie industries’ beef with pirated media. But attacking Google for merely indexing what people choose to post freely is luducris. Newspapers can’t seem to figure out that the tried and true (and dying) papar format can’t be simply affixed to a webpage with the intent of it being treated the same as a physical newpaper. Google doesn’t pawn the articles off as its own, but it does show us something that most papers don’t want you to know: There are hundreds of newpapers across the globe offering the same boring old articles beaming across the AP and Rueters news wires. Newpapers could survive in the pre internet era because they offered something that few in the region were offering. Now that Google, and the internet for that matter, has made the world smaller, newspapers offering the exact same content prove themselves to be a dying industry.

Jim Lipsey (user link) says:

We need to plug the analog hole, too.

The CNET article is dead-on, but it misses the fact that these tactics must be addressed in the analog domain, as well.

Did you know, for instance, that for decades libraries have maintained vast libraries of card files, with each card providing a hard copy reference to the location of a specific copyrighted work? The whole thing is coordinated under the auspices of a shadowy cartel that calls itself ‘The Dewey Decimal System’. Any legislation that addresses Google needs to address these folks, as well.

Kevin says:

Re: We need to plug the analog hole, too.

I was about to get all upset and write about how you aren’t that bright until I read the entire post and sat there and laughed for a couple minutes… my boss just looked at me funny. Ah, Google-envy…

The lessons is to read an entire post before commenting. And my wife says I never learn anything…

Ryan (profile) says:

opt out

as somebody who’s published a book, my publisher gave me the option of whether or not to submit my book to Google book search. Of course I said yes.

Why not do the same for news sites? Force them to opt in. Until then, don’t link to their stories, don’t include them in their index.

Start by blocking access to all news sites now. See how quick they come running back.

Kyros (profile) says:

I own a website, one listed in Google. If it were not for google, I’d have a fraction of the hits I do (and a small fraction of those hits). And doesn’t THOUSANDS of other search engines do the same thing? Why are they attacking google specifically? I really think this is just one of those “I’m going to take the minority view because i feel like being a rebel, even though I have no Clue as to whats going on” moments. I hope Cooper loses his index in every search engine – lets see how many hits a day he gets then!!

chris (profile) says:

big sites don't benefit from google

google does copy stuff in their caches. there is no denying that. google does profit from it, there is no denying that. i often point that out as a way to illustrate how stupid the “OMFG copyright!!” meme really is.

what should be pointed out is that google is a vital promotional service for many small websites. the problem is that it’s not a promotional tool for large websites, like CNN and the like. i think that is why some sites (always the larger ones) have trouble with google aggregating thier links… they don’t really see a tangible benefit from google’s additional promotion, so google really isn’t providing a useful service to them. they would rather get cash from google, since google is clearly profiting from using their content.

i think that is just greedy. there is a world of difference between harming someone and failing to benefit them. google’s not doing them any harm, their only offense is not doing them any good.

Trouble Maker says:

two cents worth

After my search for Charles Cooper from, all I could find was a story on how Microsoft was turning to Ozzie to demo a product and that was it, nothing was in his story Archives.

We fear what we do not understand; we ridicule that which we are jealous of.

We hold in disdain the obvious naysayer. See: Congressional Ethics.

ElCuervo says:

Re: two cents worth

sheesh, your search engine must be broken! I found 20 pages, and granted some of it was ABOUT the man, but most of it was stuff written by him. I got a kick out of this one: He tends toward “snark” right away most of the time, it seems – easy for me to avoid.

Rick says:

Stop linking to news sites...

We really should teach them a lesson. Stop all news linking for 30 days google, let them feel the revenue drop and see how they like that. Digg, Slashdot and Tech dirt type sites can block them too, wouldn’t they love that? Afterall these sites would be nothing without the news links right?

Whats next? A News tax? BAH

Personally, as a webmaster, my site revenue would drop over 45% WITHOUT Google. I get all their services FREE too, all I have to do is put up web pages. They reward me with free visitors! Those visitors visit my sites and make me money.

WOW! What a concept?!?!

Scott Carpenter (user link) says:

It’s odd because there are links for and inviting users to “digg this,” so apparently c|net, if not Mr. Cooper, does want people visiting. It’s ok for digg and to point to web sites, but not Google?

Just scanned the column so far, not sure if I want to sully his fine words by reading them. Besides, it might be theft. Oh, damn, my browser has already made a copy of the column. My bad.

It seems like it should be easy for people like this to stay off the Internet and in the bookstore if they don’t like and don’t understand modern media.

Josh says:


I’m normally wary of analogies, because they’re often wrong or simply misunderstood. But I’m gonna offer one up.

You open a business (real brick and mortar building). The shop is wonderful, has all sorts of stuff that customers want, and you actually make money from the customers you get. Only problem is that you don’t seem to get alot of customers. Maybe its due to a bad location – you’re not right on Main St and people can’t find the store. Maybe the customers who you want to come in don’t know the store is there. Whatever the reason, you don’t get many customers.

Then suddenly, you start getting lots. You ask them, and they all tell you how they got to the store. Most of them tell you the same thing. Jealosy kicks in, why didn’t you think of that, so you sue the company that sent you all these customers.

Who’d you sue? The people who printed the map of the town you’re in and sold it at 7-11 or Walmart.

craig says:

Some day people are going to realize that in order to preserve the idea of “intellectual property” in an age when tens of millions of eight year olds can manufacture and distribute hundreds of millions of copies of your “property” with a single mouse click, it will require a global fascist state.
Fascism either to control and inhibit the technology, or to closely monitor everyone’s activities… or both.

Zaine Ridling (user link) says:

Would TechDirt mind if I stole its content?

Charles makes a great point, however. If I create a “tech gossip” site and headline all of TechDirt’s content and columns, would you mind? If I sold ads and made a fortune off of TechDirt’s content and synopsized enough of every article on your site to keep all but the perusers from clicking through to TechDirt, would you mind? If your traffice went down every month while I got richer and richer and you got poorer and poorer, would you mind? I bet TechDirt would be the first to run to the lawyers and courts.

If not, let me know. I have an idea I’d like to try ASAP.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Would TechDirt mind if I stole its content?

If I create a “tech gossip” site and headline all of TechDirt’s content and columns, would you mind?

Nope. Go for it. We’ve said this repeatedly in the past. In fact, there are a few sites that have done so. So, please, don’t make assumptions like you did. You’re completely wrong on this one.

If I sold ads and made a fortune off of TechDirt’s content and synopsized enough of every article on your site to keep all but the perusers from clicking through to TechDirt, would you mind?

Go for it. Best of luck to you.

If your traffice went down every month while I got richer and richer and you got poorer and poorer, would you mind?

As I said, go for it. I think you’d have trouble realizing your plan. Most people would recognize that the content was ours, not yours, and they would wonder why they should bother sticking on your site, and they’d come to us for the original. Other than that, it would just encourage us to add more features and make our site better so that people remain here even if the content is available elsewhere.

Plenty of sites have copied our content and put ads on it. There are at least 6 I know of today. We’ve never once sent our lawyers after them, because we know that they add no value and they tend not to last very long. It’s a stupid business move for you to do it, but we won’t stop you.

So, go for it.

Good luck!

In the meantime, you do realize that this isn’t what Cooper was talking about at all. He’s talking about Google News, which gives a fair use snippet and points people back to the original content. If you want to do *that*, we actually encourage it! Please do! Use our content to drive more traffic? I’d love it!

Jason (user link) says:

How long has Cnet been bashing Google News For?

The problem here is that you can’t take the hate talk that goes around in the office and then put it on the web. With the exception of a few good reporters at Cnet, they do the same thing the Google news algorithm does but they draw a salary. they just scan tech news and then post a bit of their own thoughts.

They’ve had this thing on their site for sometime that bashes Google tech news… Put together with get this… “Real People” Yeah, people that don’t know squat but how to read the WSJ and NYT and try to post before the bots do.

Get over it, no one is trying to steal anything, you do the same as Google and your sorry attempt at “organizing” tech news with all the lines that link the stories is “LAME!” get rid of that and get rid of all of the sorry ass reporters like this guy and CNET might have a chance. Get over Google, they are a much better company than CNET, the IQ at Google is SO MUCH higher than your and most of the reporters.

Sorry I’m getting off track here a bit.

Carl Howe (user link) says:

Google and CNET have a contentious history

Google and CNET have been at odds for quite a while, particularly after CNET published CEO Eric Schmidt’s address, net worth, and a variety of other personal details. Google then cut off CNET’s access to its executives for a year (it later relented). Needless to say, I don’t think Google is CNET’s favorite company. You can read what I wrote about that story when it happened last year here.

As many above have noted, copyright in the digital realm is a tough and complex topic. I, for one, believe that it profoundly impedes progress. Countless successful businesses, including Disney and cable TV, were built by taking copyrighted material and distributing it more widely than its original reach. In the cable TV world, in fact, this had to get decided by the courts as being legal, since it was a clear violation of copyright to take broadcast material, redistribute it, and charge money for that free content. But the courts ruled that the public interest was served because the cable companies added value. I believe that eventually Google’s service will be viewed in the same way. And kudos to them for having the courage to challenge what is clearly a intellectual property rewards system that has been stretched way beyond its original intent.

The way I look at it nowadays, is that I could go months or years without every reading CNET again. But I wouldn’t last a day without Google. And that clearly shows which of these two companies is adding more value to the digital world.


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