Microsoft Goes for Google's Copyright Jugular

07 March 2007

NEW YORK: Thomas C Rubin, associate general counsel for Microsoft, enthusiastically exploited the 'Hallelujah' factor of preaching to the converted while addressing the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers on Wednesday.

Likely believing the old adage "my enemy's enemy is my friend", the Microsoft legal eagle used the occasion of the AAP talkfest to lash out at the greatest corporate threat faced by his employer since it launched in April 1975. His theme was the growing tide of opposition to Google's alleged plundering of copyrighted media content.

An address entitled: Searching for Principles: Online Services and Intellectual Property was Rubin's platform for telling America's publishers what they wanted to hear. It was a siren song, given that the AAP is currently suing Google for making unauthorized digital copies of copyrighted books from libraries.

According to Rubin, Google's decision to make digital copies of all books in various library collections (unless publishers expressly refuse permission) "systematically violates copyright, deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetising their works and, in doing so, undermines incentives to create".

Google, he charged, was breaching copyright law because it "bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books".

He continued: "Google is saying to you and other copyright owners: 'Trust us, you're protected. We'll keep the digital copies secure. We'll only show snippets. We won't harm you, we'll promote you'.

"But . . . anyone who visits YouTube. . . will immediately recognise that it follows a similar cavalier approach to copyright." [YouTube, of course, was recently acquired by Google for $1.65bn.]

Microsoft, by contrast, was portrayed as a concerned and principled ally, the publishers' pal. It had, reported Rubin, already written to executives of big media conglomerates, offering to work with them to eliminate piracy from MSN's new video service Soapbox.

Attendees were relieved to hear from AAP president/ceo Patricia S Schroeder that Microsoft had agreed to work with the association and others "to develop principles on responsible book search".

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff