Google Says It Won’t Obey Content Theft Laws?

by Howard Gantman 05/18/2011 13:44 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Google went way out on a limb today on content theft – saying it would “fight” laws designed to block rogue websites that display and sell copyrighted material.

Speaking in London earlier today, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt told reporters that “[i]f there is a law that requires DNS [domain name systems, the protocol that allows users to connect to websites], to do X and it’s passed by both houses of congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it...If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it.”  UK publication The Guardian first reported Schmidt’s comments here.

We think that’s pretty outrageous, and we’ve said so.  Here’s MPAA’s Michael O’Leary’s full statement in response:

In April, Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker testified before Congress that ‘Google supports developing effective policy and technology tools to combat large-scale commercial infringement.’  That’s exactly what the PROTECT IP Act is designed to do – it creates a narrowly-drawn, carefully constructed solution to the threat to American jobs and America’s economy, a solution that protects and strengthens our right to free speech.   As constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams wrote, ‘[c]opyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment.’

Is Eric Schmidt really suggesting that if Congress passes a law and President Obama signs it, Google wouldn’t follow it?  As an American company respected around the world, it’s unfortunate that, at least according to its executive chairman’s comments, Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws.

We’ve heard this ‘but the law doesn’t apply to me’ argument before – but usually, it comes from content thieves, not a Fortune 500 company.  Google should know better.  And  the notion that China would use a bi-partisan, narrowly tailored bill as a pretext for censorship is laughable, as Google knows, China does what China does.

Sandra Aistars from the Copyright Alliance has also weighed in with a great blog post on this.  One quote:

Perhaps the Google view is that a mere threat of non-compliance will somehow scare off officials eager to defend American creativity and American jobs. But the strident statements smack of corporate imperialism, and – delivered across the Atlantic in London – are a far cry from the tone Google’s General Counsel took while testifying back home in America before the House Judiciary Committee a mere six weeks ago.

CNET is also following this news and includes a quote from an unnamed Google spokesperson that suggests that Schmidt may have stepped out of bounds:

In response to questions from CNET a Google spokesperson issued this statement: “Free expression is an issue we care deeply about and we continue to work closely with Congress to make sure the Protect IP Act will target sites dedicated to piracy while protecting free expression and legitimate sites.”

Month List