Book Publisher Has No Idea How Google Works But Pretty Sure It Could End Piracy If It Tried

from the just-do-the-thing!-THE-THING!-how-much-more-clear-do-I-need-to-be?!?! dept

Here’s the stupidest thing on piracy you’re going to read today. Or this month. Maybe even this whole holiday season. Rudy Shur, of Square One Publishers, has a problem with piracy, which he thinks is actually a problem with Google.

After being contacted by Google Play with an offer to join the team, Shur took it upon himself to fire off an angry email in response. That would have been fine, but he somehow convinced Publisher’s Weekly to print both the letter and some additional commentary. Presumably, his position at a publishing house outweighed Publisher Weekly’s better judgment, because everything about his email/commentary is not just wrong, but breathtakingly so.

After turning down the offer to join Google Play (Shur’s previous participation hadn’t really shown it to be an advantageous relationship), Shur decided to play internet detective. Starting with this paragraph, Shur’s arguments head downhill… then off a cliff… then burst into flames… then the flaming wreckage slides down another hill and off another cliff. (h/t The Digital Reader)

[W]e did discover, however, was that Google has no problem allowing other e-book websites to illegally offer a number of our e-book titles, either free or at reduced rates, to anyone on the Internet.

There’s a huge difference between “allowing” and “things that happen concurrently with Google’s existence.” Shur cannot recognize this difference, which is why he’s so shocked Google won’t immediately fix it.

When we alerted Google, all we got back was an email telling us that Google has no responsibility and that it is up to us to contact these sites to tell them to stop giving away or selling our titles.

Yep, it’s called the DMCA process. It’s been in all the papers. DMCA notices are issued to websites hosting the pirated material. Google also delists search results in response to DMCA notices. What never happens is Google arbitrarily delisting sites just because someone notices piracy exists. Google is also not “The Internet” and lacks the power to shut down websites it doesn’t own. It is not Google’s job to police the web for infringement, no more than it’s Yahoo’s or Microsoft’s.

Undeterred by this illogical conundrum, Shur heads into the “inadvertently comic analogy” territory previously reserved for Thomas Friedman.

Let me ask you something. If a store sells knockoff designer handbags, why is it okay for police to come in, confiscate the illegal merchandise, and arrest and fine the store owners? It’s because the store is profiting from the sales of these illegal goods, in the same way Google can increase its advertising rates because these illegal sites increase the number of users it attracts.

No, it’s because the store is selling infringing goods. The store has infringing goods on the premises. It’s not because the store is “profiting.” It’s because of what it’s doing and what the store contains. A better analogy would be to point out that cops can’t raid a business directory company just because it prints out pages that might contain names and addresses of stores selling illicit goods.

The fact that Google advertises on its own search results pages is beside the point. Ads will be served whether or not “pirate sites” show up in the search results. The ads are not tied to illegal activity. Whether or not some ads are “more profitable” (even if Shur’s postulation is true) doesn’t matter.

And that’s not even the worst part of that paragraph. Shur actually is trying to claim that piracy attracts more people to Google’s search engine. Normally, people (misguided people) try to argue that Google directs people to pirate sites. Shur reverses this theory and comes out looking even worse than many who share his viewpoint that Google should be in charge of stamping out infringement.

So far, Shur has been unable to be even technically correct. Now, he attempts to be morally correct.

As a long-time publisher, I’ve been reasonably successful in this business; I also have always attempted to do everything right. That approach has allowed me to work with such companies and groups as Macy’s, the National Science Foundation, Corning Inc., and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, to mention just a few. If Google wants to really work with Square One, I would first ask Google to do the right thing as well. But based on the fact that it would rather hide behind the doctrine of noncensorship, Google doing the right thing doesn’t seem likely.

Whatever. Taking the moral high ground is a terrible way to make a point. It’s a way to make a point badly, but it’s only going to resonate with those who sincerely believe companies are morally obligated to do whatever any aggrieved party feels they should. It’s a non-starter, and it only serves to highlight the weakness of the surrounding arguments.

That’s the original flaming wreckage — all included in Shur’s email to Google. What follows is Shur’s successful attempt to shove his burning, demolished credibility off another cliff.

I wonder how the good people at Google would feel if one of their patented parts or products were to be knocked off and either given away free or incorporated into a cheaper copycat item. Judging from the Wikipedia entry “Google Litigation,” it seems that the company has no problem going after those it has judged as infringing its patents. I wonder if any of the companies it has sued thought of initially responding to Google by sending the following email:

Since we have nothing to do with the actual infringement of your product, we share no responsibility in making it available to the public. Rather, we advise you to take the matter up with the engineering firm that makes the offending part. In the meantime, we will continue to sell the product until the firm stops offering it to us.

To make this analogy work… well, actually you can’t. You just cannot make this work.

All the litigation Shur “cites” (with a Wikipedia reference and no link) is defensive litigation. Very little of it has to do with patents. Google isn’t filing lawsuits alleging IP infringement. Google is almost always the defendant, especially in patent cases.

So, Shur’s analogy is completely dismantled by the very reference he cites in support of it. even before he tries extending it with his “what if” scenario. Even if we play by Shur’s rules, the analogy still doesn’t hold. The scenario here — when applied to Shur’s “why won’t Google shut down pirate sites” argument — plays out like this:

Google sues YellowPages.com because a company listed in its pages is infringing on its patents. YP gets itself dismissed from the lawsuit by pointing out that it has nothing to do with the alleged infringement. That’s Shur’s situation applied to his stupid analogy. And it puts him right back at square one, with Google telling him to contact the sites hosting infringing material, rather than Google, if he wants the content taken down.

This makes his attempt to pound the message home that much more pathetic.

Unfortunately for the publishing industry, under Google’s sense of fairness, copyright protection is not equal to patent protection.

Or, more accurately, a whole bunch of people think Google owes them something, especially when IP is involved. Shur thinks Google owes him a piracy-free ebook environment. In support of his theory, he has all these analogies that only make sense to others with the same mindset — people who believe Google owns the internet and should always be policing it from pirated goods. (Or terrorist content, people saying mean things, etc.)

And finally, A CALL TO ARMS!

It is highly doubtful that the email response I sent to the Google representative is going to make Google rethink its policies, but if enough of us raise our voices loud enough, maybe someone at Google will sit up and take notice.

No offense, Shur, but maybe let someone else — someone who actually understands the things they’re talking about — lead the charge. You can’t win if you don’t even know what game you’re playing.

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Comments on “Book Publisher Has No Idea How Google Works But Pretty Sure It Could End Piracy If It Tried”

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53 Comments
Violynne (profile) says:

As a long-time publisher, I’ve been reasonably successful in this business; I also have always attempted to do everything right.
Shur you did.

The fact that, as a publisher, you raped the hell out of authors signed by your business isn’t an accurate justification of “successful”. All it means is you can legally fuck over your clients because if they refuse, you don’t sign them.

In our society, that’s call blackmail, asshole.

So your “attempt” translates to “I’ve seen other publishers get rich off the backs of others, so perhaps I will too.”

Karma. Maybe it be delivered one e-book at a time, asshole.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I agree with you. The author who trashes Rudy Shur truly is missing the sincere support of Mr. Shur to writers and instead of trashing him could have suggested points he could have made better. Piracy is such a hardship for writers.

I agree with you.

It doesn’t sound like you do, because he’s talking about this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilting_at_windmills

Piracy is such a hardship for writers.

Lack of sales is a hardship, but don’t assume that’s due to piracy.

John85851 (profile) says:

All of Publisher's Weekly is now invalidated

It’s all well and good that Tim can write a scathing essay like this, but the fact still stands that Publisher’s Weekly thought this guy’s article was so good that they published it, without any regard to the facts or how printing something like this could damage their reputation.
Wasn’t there an editor (or 2 or 3) that said “wait a second, that’s not how Google works” and told the guy to re-write his paper?

If this guy’s article is the type of quality articles published in Publisher’s Weekly, I doubt the validity of anything else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: All of Publisher's Weekly is now invalidated

To be fair, if I were an editor, I’d publish it. The article parodies itself and makes the author looks like an ignorant idiot. I’d just make sure the article has a disclaimer that it’s the opinion of the author only. It’s in the opinion section of the website, so that’s good enough for me. Why stop a fool from making a further fool out of himself when it gets you pageviews?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: All of Publisher's Weekly is now invalidated

Maybe Publisher’s Weekly sincerely and strongly agrees with Rudy Shur.

One could reasonably infer such from their publishing of it.

Maybe they publish this to UPHOLD their reputation rather than invalidate it. Maybe the reputation they want is not the reputation we would think that they want.

Ryunosuke says:

“After turning down the offer to join Google Play (Shur’s previous participation hadn’t really shown it to be an advantageous relationship), Shur decided to play internet detective. Starting with this paragraph, Shur’s arguments head downhill… then off a cliff… then burst into flames… then the flaming wreckage slides down another hill and off another cliff. (h/t The Digital Reader)”

I immediately thought of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBpw1sdFu2w (spoilers, Groundhog Day)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'd like to know....

This is a point I’ve made many times. Blocking the search engine findings only effects the clueless. Those that are clueless, it only takes a few minutes to get them straightened out, if they just ask the question of ‘how’.

Even if all the IP owners got their wish of eliminating the search engines from the internet, the move still does not make any serious sense. Before the internet was the sneaker net. I’m still waiting on finding out how they propose to find the IP of one of them on the sneaker net.

Anonymous Coward says:

He owes google

“When we alerted Google, all we got back was an email telling us that Google has no responsibility and that it is up to us to contact these sites to tell them to stop giving away or selling our titles.”

I’m surprised Google didn’t send him an invoice for the computing time and electricity used in creating the handy list of sites selling ‘his’ books. Talk about biting the hand that feeds.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“Google doing the right thing doesn’t seem likely.”

Except they did do the right thing, they just didn’t do the thing you demanded.
There is a difference.
If I hold you personally responsible for every man who sexually assaults a woman, you’d call me insane.
Yet you seek to hold Google responsible for the entirety of the internet.

The simple fact there are so many people in positions of “power” who deeply believe that Google is the internet keeps supporting my thought that power leads to a form of brain damage.

The law offers a recourse, but its hard so we need to make someone else do it for us. We sent 1000s of notices to Google but the content is still out there!!! It is Googles fault, not our fault for fundamentally misunderstanding basic concepts and expecting that everyone else needs to do the work to protect our rights.

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