House Hearing On File Sharing Turns Into 'But Why Can't Google Magically Stop All Bad Things Online' Hearing
from the no-surprise-there dept
You kind of knew where things were heading when the House decided to have pre-COICA hearings on what websites can do to deal with copyright infringement — especially when they titled it “Promoting Investment and Protecting Commerce Online: Legitimate Sites v. Parasites.” The very fact that they’re presupposing certain sites as “parasites,” suggests this hearing was not about reasoned discussion (is any Congressional hearing ever really about that?), but about pointing fingers, and the key finger pointing was directly at Google. I’ll have a separate post on the “prepared remarks” of the various speakers, but the Congressional Reps in attendance apparently focused most of their attention on Google, wondering why it’s not magically stopping infringement online.
“The question isn’t what Google has done,” [Rep. Bob] Goodlatte told the audience. “But more about what Google has left to do.”
He listed some of the accusations that some in the entertainment industries have leveled at Google, such as the ability of the alleged pirate sites to fund their operations by posting Google ads on their site, as well as an inability by Google to remove infringing materials promptly.
Note what he did not do, which is point out that Google has gone significantly beyond what the law requires to help copyright holders. It’s even set up ways for them to directly monetize content when it’s found to be infringing online. You would think that helping copyright holders monetize is more important than “stopping infringement,” but somehow no one ever seems to think that way. Also note that Goodlatte simply took the (mostly false) accusations by the entertainment industry as fact — and didn’t seem to pay attention to the fact that almost none of the accusations were accurate.
Of course, the real crux of the argument is this belief that Google can somehow wave a magic wand and make infringement disappear online. It’s technological cluelessness at its most extreme. Google has a long history of responding quickly to take down notices and (in our opinion) bending over backwards, far beyond what the law requires, to help copyright holders both defend their rights and to make money. The idea that Google “profits” from infringement has simply not been shown at all. The entertainment industry has this weird belief that anywhere AdSense ads are displayed, that massive profits follow. This is simply incorrect. But, even if it were true, how is Google to know what is and what is not infringing? It’s a simple question and no one answers it, other than to say, “it’s obvious.” Then when it’s pointed out that it’s not at all obvious, they go quiet.