Microsoft Attacks Google On Copyright — Statements Will Come Back To Haunt Microsoft

from the not-such-a-good-idea dept

The press is having a field day over the fact that a Microsoft lawyer is trashing Google’s position on copyright. These weren’t offhand statements made in passing either — but a clear statement from the guy that was released to the press a day before he actually plans to make the speech. It’s clearly an attack, but it’s an incredibly poorly aimed one, and it’s likely to come back to hurt Microsoft a lot more than it helps them. The attack is pretty typical of the various attacks on Google concerning copyright from other corners. It suggests that Google’s book scanning project somehow violates copyright law and then in an odd tangent tries to link the copyright issues of Google Library with YouTube. There are a variety of problems with this, and you would think that a practicing lawyer would understand them. These arguments sound like they come from someone in marketing, with no actual understanding of either the law or the technology being discussed. While it’s still being debated in court, there is pretty strong support suggesting that what Google is doing in its book project is completely legal. It really is no different than what Google (or, for that matter, Microsoft) does with the web: creating a huge index of the content to make it more easily accessible. If Google’s book scanning project is found to violate copyright, then Microsoft may be in a lot of trouble as well, as it will effectively outlaw Microsoft’s search engine also — and with it, plenty of the benefit that the internet provides.

Second, tying Google’s book scanning project to YouTube makes absolutely no sense, and is clearly used just to get attention. The situations are completely different. In the book scanning project, it’s Google putting the content up on the site. With YouTube, Google is simply acting as a platform. As a lawyer (especially one working for a tech company) you would think that he would understand that the law very clearly protects service providers from what its users do — and for a good reason. I’m sure Microsoft wouldn’t be at all happy if it were suddenly liable for every defamatory message sent using its Hotmail service. Yet, if Microsoft’s lawyer is right that Google is liable for copyright infringement on YouTube, then certainly Microsoft is liable for defamation via Hotmail. This argument will come back to bite Microsoft at some point.

Overall, the speech really doesn’t make much sense from Microsoft’s standpoint. It’s clearly a pre-meditated media attack on Google, who Microsoft sees as a major competitor. But the arguments are incredibly weak, and can be equally applied to Microsoft. It also ignores increasing evidence (as was predicted) that Google’s book scanning project is actually helping to sell more books. So the whole situation reflects incredibly poorly on Microsoft. Microsoft does little to no damage to Google, because most people recognize the arguments are weakly argued and supported — and then it opens itself up to problems in the future when it needs to defend these statements over its own actions. It’s not at all clear why Microsoft would do it, but it’s not in the company’s best legal, marketing, business or technological interests.

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Comments on “Microsoft Attacks Google On Copyright — Statements Will Come Back To Haunt Microsoft”

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. says:


Microsoft wanted to be the music middleman, it lost to Apple. Now it wants to be the digital TV middleman, but Google has the viewers. It wanted to be the eBook middleman too, but eBooks didn’t sell. It wanted its cut of games, but the XBox 360 never even sold as well as the PS2.

They had big plans to leverage Windows into every middleman opportunity they could, and they ended up without a single middleman market.

Now they launch Vista, the middlemans operating system requiring encrypted pathways for all media, supporting HDDVD encryption, special new hardware….. Finally they will own the media distribution channel and the media companies will HAVE to take them seriously!
But Vista doesn’t sell, nobody wants it, the DRM is already cracked, and HDDVD keys are broken.

They end up with nothing but a very overpriced OS requiring hardware that serves no purpose, and an extremely precarious position with their core products, Windows and Office under attack.

The best form of defense is attack and that’s what he’s trying here.

Nikolis says:

Re: Bitterness

I completely agree.

It’s obvious that Microsoft views Google as a major competitor. Google has moved into their native land and is taking over, piece by piece. Google is now even beating Microsoft to new advancements, such as the recent acquisition of YouTube. They’re superior to Microsoft in everything they do. It’s not surprising at all for them to be attacking Google.

Instead of wasting time and money on bringing frivolous lawsuits such as this against Google, they need to revisit the drawing board and rethink their direction as a business. Instead of spreading themselves thin, as they are, trying to cover every major market imaginable – Computers, Gaming Consoles, Portable Music Devices – with substantial products that are clearly lacking in quality and features as the major competitors already in that market, they need to focus on what they primarily are – a computer software company.

Their recently released Windows Vista Operating System is considerably lacking, bringing into their system features and options that have been available in competitor’s software for perhaps years. Not only that, but the software itself practically demands the end-user to upgrade their hardware. Vista is nothing more than an overpriced, pumped up version of Windows XP with new fancy eye-candy and a very, very annoying security system that functions illogically.

But yeah, is anyone really surprised by this news?

wayne says:

Re: Bitterness

don’t know what your talking about with the x-box, sure the ps2 kicked the crap out of the old x-box, but if you look at it sales right now the 360 is the number one out of next gen, truthfully i don’t think any console in the future will make the mark as the ps2 did ever again. but the 360 is in fact a big competter(i know i can’t spell) this time around if not last time i checked the leader.

.. says:


Microsoft have been unsuccessful in nearly every endeavor they have undergone recently. In order to save face they are trying to pull attention away from their failures, however their actions are doing quite the opposite. What Microsoft needs to do is find out why their competitors are dominating the market and then play to that, rather than trying to bring legal action against anyone that may be a threat.

Microsoft need to learn to use marketing to their advantage, rather than making ineffective advertising campaigns and then complaining when they don’t work.

Maybe if Microsoft put a little effort into marketing instead of trying to take legal action against anything that could be remotely deemed a threat they might actually be able to make some decent sales. Microsoft have built themselves a bad reputation, and unless they start concentrating on themselves rather than trying to attack their competition they are going to keep that reputation.

Tom (profile) says:

If you can't innovate, litigate

Google is about to do exactly what Microsoft feared Netscape was going to do. Netscape wanted the web browser to be the O/S and the Internet to provide the apps. This is what caused Microsoft to point all of its apps at the Internet and to embed and entwine its web browser with Windows.

Netscape went belly-up, largely of its own doings and Microsoft dodged a bullet.

Now Google is poised to make the same threat with its Google Apps and this time, Microsoft is too late to respond. Not that it would do much good because it appears unlikely that Google will self-destruct like Netscape did. Ironically, it was Microsoft’s-own “dot-NET” initiative (central server apps and thin-client access) concept that Google implemented. Talk about hoist on one’s petard!

So now, with all innovation options taken away, Microsoft has to resort to the only weapon it has left – its lawyers and litigation. Litigation – truly the last bastion of the creatively challenged company. If they can get Google tied up in court (even better if they can get the Feds to tie Google in court), they might again jump out of the way of the fatal projectile hurtling toward them.

Gates’ biggest fear has always been that someone would do to Microsoft what they did to IBM – that is, some young, nimble, hungry company with no legacy to tie them down would unseat and overthrow the incumbent, behemoth tech-market leader. Looks like Gates may be finally fulfilling his own prophecy!

Et tu, Billy?

KarmasAgent says:

on comparing apples to oranges

while having no love for Microsoft, the entire basis of the submitter’s “going to bite MS in the patooty” argument is absurd.

“Defamation” is a barely prosecutable crime that doesn’t infringe upon the supposed earnings ability of someone else’s work.

I completely support Google in their efforts to make the Internet the new Library and doing for books what they do for information and individual islands that are websites. And I applaud them for aggressively challenging the broadcast television model in a seemingly viable manner, however small the baby steps are.

THAT BEING SAID – the argument attempting to link the abuse of the Hotmail service to “defame” people (or an actually relevant problem with the service’s use – the spamming) with Microsoft’s attack on Google’s YouTube and Library sites is asinine and shows a loose, if nonexistent grasp on logic and equivalence.

True, MS shouldn’t throw stones. False, no one would get anywhere in a copyright case saying “yeah, I may have stolen your book but you “defamed me” and run a service that sent me spam”

If you’re going to irrationally hate a corporation do so intelligently and with arguments that actually make sense. If you want to compare apples to oranges – at least acknowledge the two objects actually have no bearing on each other in terms of the argument and state up front you’re holding a bitch session, not a factual discussion.

Googly Eyed says:

Google = M$ = Evil Empire

Google is the embodiement (sp?) of evil. It has made money on the back of countless content owners. Website creaters, bloggers, book authors, etc… They are like the local corrupt that says, if you dont work with them they may let the local thugs have at you (ie pirates).

YouTube is exactly like Napster. And did you look into that deal? Very shady if you look at the back story and players. Oh and waht do you know…over 30% of that deal is set aside for lawsuits. Gee…think Google knew they were sitting on a pile of stolen goods? Yup.

As for the book publishing, that is horrible. If the copyright owners say okay, let them do it (Google or anyone else). Otherwise—no way.

Casper says:

Re: I don't see Google as evil..

It depends how you look at it. I don’t see Google as an evil empire as I do M$ for several reasons. The first has to be how it uses it’s power. Google has never mistreated me, as a user, in any way since I have used their products. They don’t charge crazy high fees, they just provide services that work and work well. On the other hand, M$ over charges on just about every product they sell (unless trying to undercut a competitor…), they are horrible to their customers, they have lackluster products at best, and they have no intention of innovating. M$ would rather tighten it’s strangle hold on people rather then make them interested in buying their products of their own free will.

I think the way a company is view is much the same way a ruler of a country might be viewed. If you a good to your people and benevolent, you will be adored. If your a tyrant, you will be hated.

I for one will never buy M$ office again. There just isn’t a reason to. Our office is also looking into abandoning it. If there were a practical alternative for Windows, I’m sure we would change OS too, but there just isn’t yet.

Wolff says:

Re: Google = M$ = Evil Empire

Sorry but members of any of the AA Mafias are not welcome here. I truly hope your post was in jest and you don’t believe the vile smelling stuff that just poured out of my screen. In case you didn’t know by your logic every single search engine on the planet made money off of other peoples online work. What would be the point of a search engine that didn’t search anything? As for the book project I suppose you paid no attention to the link that shows how book sales increased due to Google’s project. They also don’t scan whole books with out permission. They only use excerpts which is well within the law. I really love the idiotic statement that YouTube is the new equivalent of Napster. YouTube is not a download service it is only meant for viewing and as stated in the article service providers are not liable for content others submit. Google regularly takes down copyrighted material once the owner says they don’t want it posted. If your post was done as sarcasm I apologize for my rant. If you are serious in these completely illogical ideas than you should crawl back under whatever rock you came from and leave the logical, intelligent people in peace.

***I am not for Google or against. They are a corporation that wants to make money like any other. That “Do no evil” slogan is nice PR but I know that it all comes down to the almighty buck. As for MS I openly admit I am not a big fan but I don’t think they are “evil” either.***

Sanguine Dream says:

Oh dear...

has MS joined the **AA Mafia? They seem to be taking up the creed of, “When all else fails sue or pay politicians to get the laws rewritten”.

It would seem that MS is trying to prevent Google from doing with MS itself has been doing for years, using almost but not quite illegal tactics to become a dominate force in the industry.

Like comment #3 said part of the reason behind this arugment is that MS has spread itself very thin trying to put its hands in so many cookie jars (namely game consoles and portable media players) and not clearly dominating in any of them like the almost stranglehold they have on the software market.

Kinda reminds me of high school girls. When one is outdone by the other she won’t just work harder/smarter she’ll just spread rumors about the girl that outdid her.

But like comment #5 says drawing comparison between Google’s book scanning and Hotmail seems odd. Infringment and deformation aren’t related. Unless Mike was just pointing out the legal hypocracy of MS’s statements?

Danny says:

Like you guys really care...

Seriously. Let whoever do what they want to do. It’s sad really, to read all this crap. Sure it gives this site something to do, and you guys eat it all up…but this is how these people make money…this is big business at its best. None of us here are anywhere near these people.

nukem says:

Micro$oft, the Sleeping Giant

Once again Micro$oft is showing their true colors. They’ve reached their peak and are scrambling to hold it there. Problem is what goes up must come down.

They need to concentrate on making the market areas that they currently control, better and quit trying to control the whole of the techno world. They have the corner on the OS market, they should work to make it better. Vista is not the perfect OS it really needs attention. If they don’t concentrate on making it the best OS, they’ll loose out to Linux in the long run. It is more innovative but not yet supported from the application side. If it ever gains support from application vendors, Microsoft will have a serious adversary.

They think they have the OS and Word Processor Suite markets locked in. The sleeping Giant will eventually fall should they become complacent. There’s too many good alternatives on the horizon, and they’re constantly getting better. Wake up Micro$oft and start competing. The the little people are beginning stake you down one thread at a time. Soon you’ll be bound to the ground by all those tiny threads only to awaken at their mercy.

Buzz (profile) says:

Making Money Isn't Evil!

I find it interesting how many people attack Google for making money through advertising and whatnot. Google offers numerous amazing services FOR FREE. This supposedly evil advertising campaign they have going on is the only thing preventing them from charging $10 per Google account and $5 per month after that! It is perfectly OK for them to advertise in all their products including this controversial book search operation. Why haven’t web sites freaked out about their web content being completely stored in Google’s data stores??? The book search is essentially the same thing! They HAVE to index the text of the entire book if the respective search engine is to be useful at all. If anything, Google should be awarded a medal for designing very discreet and non-intrusive ads. They really never both me, but I know they are there, and I even click on them now and again.

Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to operate off brute force. As someone mentioned already, they stopped making products that truly intrigue the user. Rather than appealing to customers and giving them good reason to upgrade to their new products, they shove a new OS in our faces and say, “Well, you better upgrade or you’ll be behind.” What they failed to realize is that people are not going to take it any longer. Heck, I am a prime example: I now run Ubuntu Linux. I’ve had enough of Windows.

Along these same lines (and because I noticed some game console debate), Sony decided to go overboard with the PS3 and then charge $600 all because they felt they had an oh-so-loyal PlayStation fan base. Now, PS3s are seen on shelves of retailers everywhere while the “doomed-to-fail” Wii is nowhere to be found.

Anyway, one thing I noticed about this particular Techdirt article: I didn’t see much mention of the fact that Microsoft is indexing content no longer protected under copyright. Google indexes all content regardless. As long as Google does not make the full book content available to the public, they really are not doing anything wrong.

None says:

Missed the best point

You missed the most critical point. The big complaint is Google and their ilk make ad money off content without producing any original content of their own. This argument, especially when it comes from **AA members, borders on idiotic since that’s the business model of every content publisher, producer and distributor out there. The artist create the content the rest just package, promote, market and distribute it while taking most of the money generated for themselves. Google’s model doesn’t steal the fruits of the artist labor. It’s the old model that the **AA is trying to preserve that absorbs all the money generated from an artist creation.

Fred Garvin says:

Increasing Book Sales Does Not Justify Copyright I

Funny to read all of the experts above. The fact is that Google has some real issues with their scanning project, and it is an open question as to whether that will ultimately be held to infringe. In any event, the fact that the project is increasing book sales has no bearing on the infringement question. The owner of a copyright in a creative work does not give up his or her rights to any yoyo who has a scheme that will increase sales of that work. Even if we conclude that Google’s book scanning project is, overall a good thing for society, that alone does not make it legal.

Buzz (profile) says:

Re: Increasing Book Sales Does Not Justify Infring

Fred, you are right that Google increasing the books’ sales does not justify copyright infringement in itself, but the increased sales are evidence to suggest that Google is not using them for its own profits. Google’s ads make the money, not the books they are indexing. Considering how non intrusive the ads are, I feel Google has every right to index the books of the world (short of those books with objectionable material).

Let’s say I release an award-winning book called Flagz. If some guy on the street posts huge banners advertising Flagz to draw attention but makes more money than me by selling candy bars, is he really guilty of copyright infringement? No one forced those people to buy candy bars. The guy is just really enthusiastic about Flagz and tells people about it… he just makes a profit from his candy bar sales.

I’m sure you’re all going to take a poke at my analogy, but I hope you see my point. I personally would be grateful that someone else would promote my book! 😛

Fred Garvin says:

Re: Re: Increasing Book Sales Does Not Justify Inf

Buzz: The thing is that a banner does not violate your coypright. Only copying the work does. Google is copying the whole work. That is a right that is reserved to the copyright holder. Making banners saying some copyrighted work is good, is not copyright infiringement (no copy). Also, if it is the ads making the money, how is Google not profiting? . . .

On a more big picture theme though, copyright law secures to the author certain exclusive rights for a limited term. Congress has already made the public policy decision regarding how long everyone else had to keep their hands off. It is up to the author to copy, distribute, make derivative works, etc. Society gets to do whatever they want with the work, but only after the copyright expires. Google is saying “we think it is good for society to be aware of this now, so we are going to copy”. Seems to me that judgement has already been made.

ReverendJoe says:

Re: Increasing Book Sales Does Not Justify Copyrig

You say:

Even if we conclude that Google’s book scanning project is, overall a good thing for society, that alone does not make it legal.

I would argue the opposite — if we (meaning us as a society, or, in particular, the Supreme Court) conclude that Google’s project is good for society, then I would argue any law that makes that project illegal, is itself an invalid law, and superseded by The Constitution.

If I, a state legislature, pass a law that says the police departments in my state can do searches and seizures that are disallowed by the Constitution, what happens? The whole mess goes to court and the “lower” jurisdictions law is ruled invalid.

Reading the Constitution, it specifically states that laws passed regarding limited-time monopoly rights for authors exist FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE of “Promoting the Progress of the Arts and Sciences” — Though IANAL, I’d argue any rational person could conclude then, that any law the prevents the Promotion of Progress is itself illegal. Ergo, under the Constitution, if something Google does with books DOES promote the progress (and what better way, in the words of the MafiAA’s themselves, to promote progress than to put more money in creator’s wallets — though they don’t really believe what they say, of course … but that’s another topic) then it is, by the highest law of the land’s own definition, inherently legal.

That’s a point that I think is often missed in these discussions — copyright law that is written for the purpose of turning ideas into property should be illegal under the Constitution. Further, there is really no empirical evidence to support the fact that the totalitarian “IP” regimes we’ve now created actually DO ANYTHING to “Promote the Progress” — We’ve never tried to have a modern society that operated in the absence of these laws, so we really don’t know — even at that, the anecdotal evidence indicates all of us, and also content creators, might well be better off WITHOUT them (eg, look at record sales from before Napster was created, during its heyday, and afterwards).

Though I’ve little doubt the truth of this will never penetrate our bought-and-owned-by-big-business government and court system, I believe MOST of copyright and patent law right now IS illegal under the Constitution, precisely BECAUSE it is hindering progress of the arts and sciences, rather than promoting it.

As some famous guy once said, (paraphrasing), “There’s nothing more difficult than making a man understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it”

a says:

Google (YouTube) might not be safe

Based on Google executives recent statements, I am not that sure that Google is bullet proof on the YouTube defense. YouTube is just the platform for users to post content, but to gain safe harbor, they have no not knowingly allow protected content to be posted.

According to recent statements, Google said it has or would have programs to keep protected material off YouTube. To not do so would violate the first requirement of the safe harbor law.

Mark says:

Microsoft lawyers

Lawyers working for technology companies often have only a vague notion what the rest of the company is doing, even those portions of the company that they’re specifically working with. My job brings me regularly into contact with Legal, and every time I have to explain and re-explain some fundamental aspect of what we’re doing and why. The critical thing to understand is lawyers don’t see it as their role to understand the technology or the marketplace. Given that situation, it’s not surprising that they make uninformed comments–much more surprising is that we give those comments so much credence.

shun says:

Apples, Oranges, and Competition

Comment #5 seems to have missed the point about bringing YouTube into the conversation. First of all, the M$ lawyer attempted to tie Google’s book-scanning project to YouTube. The projects have nothing to do with each other except that they are hosted by Google. The point the author was trying to make was that suing Google for infringement of copyright based upon content of YouTube videos would be like suing Microsoft based upon the content of emails sent through M$ Hotmail service. Not a complete analogy, but the activities are similar. Both companies host information services. Both forms of information storage (email and video archiving) can be abused. The point is not whether Google is actually liable for copyright infringement or that M$ is guilty of providing a conduit for pirated material, but that both provide a channel for people inclined to do so to “break the law” (semi-anonymously).

For those who agree with #11, and think “X-Box sales will save M$ from the gutter”, the problem is not competitiveness, but the fact that M$ has any competition at all. They are not used to it. They don’t remember the bad old day of DR-DOS. They get insecure and frightened when they don’t own 99% of a given market. As long as they don’t have a lock on the (insert favorite consumer electronic category here) expect them to behave irrationally, i.e. paying suits to spout off silliness.

“The more things change” : honestly, if Google were in the same position, they would probably behave comparably. Power corrupts, end of line.

Vista, reminds me of something….Titanic.

Jon says:

Here is one that agrees with MS.

I am of the opinion that anyone who has to proclaim their credentials prior to make a statement is needing something to prop their point of view on.

“I hold an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business. No MBA necessary, however, to grasp the American way, the American capitalist way that is: You get what you pay for!”

She is trying to say that making money off search results is somehow illegal..

I have to say I find this point to be one of the most absurd..

“Google’s free ride is being challenged by content owners around the world. Google corporate AdWords customers are challenging Google’s dominion over their own properties, protesting that Google has become a “toll keeper” on brand names.”

I was under the impression it was Google’s service and you could chose to use it or not. Would these people that feel Google is acting as a “toll keeper” prefer that Google not provide search results? Or are they only pissed cause Google doesn’t reserve the AdWords they believe they are entitled to for them?

Dave says:

Could it be... ?

Wow! There’s some terrific writing in a lot of the previous posts! Very thoughtful and thought provoking. To take a slightly different tack, what if what’s going on with, between and around Google and Microsoft is the next iteration of a repeating pattern? When Microsoft was beginning, the PC had just come out, beginning with the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Apple ][. Gates and company bought the CP/M (Control Programs for Microcomputers) and morphed it into DOS.

At the same time, IBM was the undisputed computer/technology leader and, as someone noted earlier, Microsoft unseated IBM. One might say that a young, upstart company aligned with the next generation of computing displaced the old, established company associated more with main frame and mini computers and older generation devices (typewriters, etc.).

Microsoft is now the old, established company that continues to promote what has become older generation technology (how old is the kernel for XP?) and is acting like it’s being attacked. In fact, Google isn’t attacking Microsoft. Google is just the next generation, rising out of computers and computing into information distribution and management. What if neither Microsoft or Google were doing anything “wrong,” rather they’re just living out a pattern in the life cycle of business, technology, and human history.

Microsoft certainly has the resources to improve it’s core products, and to have a secure place in the business world, but nothing will stop evolution. Microsoft also has the resources to innovate and continue to be an active, growing part of evolution. It appears Microsoft has elected to try and dodge the central issue and to make a lot of smoke and noise in a futile attempt to delay the evolutionary process. That’s a most unfortunate choice. The results of taking such a direction will likely include falling farther and farther behind in terms of technology and core competencies, bringing unwanted scrutiny and hardship upon itself, and coming to a bad end all the sooner.

Of course it’s impossible to know if what’s happening is an evolutionary pattern playing out since we’re smack in the middle of it. No matter, it will be so interesting to continue to watch and participate in the development of computers, computing, the internet, information handling and whatever comes next. I wonder how this current situation will be regarded ten or twenty years from now, and I wonder what comes after Google!

a says:

Dave, good post. There is a good article up on that talks about the Halo effect. Companies are studied and people write books about how great they are, of course because they are doing well. When the company stumbles, they write about how screwed up they are.

Good example is Cisco. They were everyone’s favorite when they were flying high, stock price at $85. In one year their stock went to $14 and everyone wrote about how much they sucked. Funny thing is, they wrote how great the management was, how their strategy was great, how their acquisitions were working, then one year later, they were writing about how bad they were.

Did management change that much in 1 year? Did their strategy become bad in 1 year?

Nope, just peoples perceptions of them changed. Look at Jet Blue, everyone said how great they were, then 1 ice storm hit. Now everyone is talking about how much change they will have to go through, how much they have to fix. Its actually kind of funny, if you think about it.

Harry (user link) says:

Rome Empire Rise and Fell at Some Points

It seems like everyone misses the point here. I am not a fan of neither one these companies (MS and Google), and I do not hate them, I just used their services/software. Because I believe on whatever goes up will eventually comes down and that is what happening here. MS at one point was dominating the market of all Technology companies now it is begging for mercy. Someday, it will be Google turns to be begging when another young/hot shot company decides to grab its piece of the pie. The true is that the kind of competitive environment MS and Google have created is good all of us as consumer and society as a whole. Believe it or not, there were people cheering with MS when it was kicking IBM to the curve now, it is Google turns and it better enjoys now, because it will be a matter of time before another company come along to take Google out of the game too. Remember the Rome, British, and many other empires eventually fell!

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