Sure, copyright and protectionism are distinct things from a theoretical point of view. But in the real world where copyright is a multifaceted tool for bullying other people, businesses and even countries, I don't see much point in calling out the difference.
I think it's dangerously narrow-minded to think that Google's entire business model revolves around YouTube. Remember that they have other products, such as: GMail, Maps, Search (hence the "Big Search" phrase you employ), Google+, etc. etc. etc.
While their business model is clearly not based off of Skittles and unicorns (see paragraph above noting other products / models they employ), I am increasingly convinced that their infrastructure runs entirely off of Skittles and unicorns.
You espouse that Big Content is the only ones producing anything and that Big Search steals from Big Content only. Are you aware that Google has pioneered managing enormous datasets? Not only do they pioneer them, but they (relatively quickly) share those advancements as well so others can build off of those concepts.
Can you really fathom the amount of data they are able to sift through to provide us with the products that we use? If you haven't ever looked into how Google's infrastructure works, it truly is an incredible, breathtaking thing.
I strongly contend that Google's advancements in technology are a creative thing. They are advancing humanity in ways that Big Content never would (and I would argue never could).
So let's not pretend like Google just "steals" from Big Content. Google absolutely does produce. And what it produces is a true work of scientific genius and art.
Okay, we can replace the word "fine" with "settlement". Over half a million dollars for the sharing of 30 songs. Still well within the bounds of my definition of insanity.
As noted by Nick up above, if digital and analog goods are the same, would I get a settlement / fine / whatever word you'd like of $675k for shoplifting 3 albums (assuming each has 10 songs on it)? If not, why not? It's "stealing" either way, and the damages should be in sync since they are the same thing, right?
If you agree, then I think I'll be inclined to note that you're crazy for thinking someone should be charged $675k for stealing 3 physical items that cost about $15 apiece. If you disagree, then you'll need to explain how digital and analog are different and that this isn't "stealing", but still is stealing, somehow, kind of.
So to be clear, a "reputable" company is a company that has a direct relationship with the content gatekeeper (I contend that many of the companies that have a relationship with don't actually produce anything, they simply "own" the rights).
However, search engines that are in the fortune 500 (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2011/snapshots/11207.html) apparently are not reputable.
I... don't think I'm understanding your definition of reputable.
And remember, theft does not equal infringement. If I peddle in stolen goods, someone lost the good and I benefit from it. If I link to some infringing work, no goods are stolen.
One final note. If I link to site Xs article which does not contain any infringing content, I'm good to go. However, later site X absolutely can change the article that I linked to so that the article now includes infringing works. And suddenly, through no fault of my own, I am no directly infringing. That. Is. Crazy. How do you justify that? Do I have to proactively monitor every link that I've ever used every moment of every day so I can avoid any possible liability?
It's abundandtly clear what is copyrighted material! There are no gray areas, copyright holders never claim ownership incorrectly, and they only want to share their content and make a modest living while they're at it.
Given that there ate clear lines of what is and isn't copyrighted, I imagine the system is both simple and inexpensive to implement and maintain.
Wow. Playing the other side like that is seeing the world through a crazy person's eyes. ...I feel dirty.
"Which uncertainty led to this 'professional' into thinking his license for singing songs at camp also allowed him to post whatever music he wanted to anywhere on the internet?"
That, I think, is the crux of Mike's point: It isn't that he was trying to "post whatever music he wanted to anywhere on the internet"; it's that he was trying to post a video of pictures from the camp, that happened to be using the copyrighted music.
Are you suggesting that for every video anyone uploads, if there is any music whatsoever in the background, they have to make sure it isn't copyrighted or that they have rights to upload it?
Re: "you should be able to buy the DVD of the movie you just watched"
Wait, what? If they are an "initial movie goer" didn't they just pay to see it? And if you mean they can just rent the movie, aren't they still paying to see it? All of it is revenue and the movie watchers are paying, what are you getting at?
"Copyright exists because content can't be locked up any other way."
Isn't that the heart of the matter that we're discussing at Techdirt? If you lock up your content too much, then nobody can get at it, so they are forced to go to infringing methods.
And we're starting with the assumption that content must be locked up so you can profit from it. Explain that to open source companies, such as Red Hat, who don't sell the content, but instead things surrounding the content. As discussed previously, for movies that would be the theater experience or limited physical goods that you purchase with the DVD / Blu Ray. For music it is the merchandise and the concerts.
And, finally, people actually do pay for content when it is user friendly and easy to get to.
I contend that copyright exists not because it is the only way to lock up content, but because people are too afraid to find alternative methods to making a successful business.