Microsoft, Google, and Copyright Scofflaws

I saw in Michael Geist’s BNA newsletter that Tom Rubin, Microsoft’s Associate General Counsel, will accuse Google of having a “cavalier” attitude towards copyright in a speech to the Association of American Publishers. has a preview of the speech, and WSJ online has the text available to subscribers. I’ve only the read the preview (I don’t subscribe to, but I’m curious how far Mr. Rubin’s speech will go to address the problem of online piracy.

Rubin describes Google as a copyright scofflaw, saying ““companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the back of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising and initial public offerings”. Rubin will apparently try to distinguish Microsoft from Google by offering to cooperate with content producers to eliminate piracy.

I wonder how far Microsoft is prepared to go in eliminating piracy from the online sites like YouTube. I went to Microsoft’s YouTube competitor Soapbox, and put in searches for “Mariah Carey” and “Ice Age.” Both searches turned up what I presume content providers consider infringement. If Microsoft is offering to police its site for infringement (presumably the behavior most respectful of copyright), they’ve obviously done a poor job. If they’re not prepared to go that far, then they must think that there is some less aggressive behavior that is a reasonable, appropriate response to the problem of user piracy. I hope and would very much like to see what Mr. Rubin’s company thinks is the right thing for sites like Soapbox to do. If Microsoft is not prepared to do everything content creators demand, it has to articulate a theory of what their obligation is. Otherwise, it looks like Microsoft is simply criticizing its more commercially successful rival.

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2 Responses

  1. Venkat says:

    More than anything, it seems like their timing is awkward. 2 years ago it would have been nice to speak up on this issue – around the time Google announced it book project?

  2. Jack S. says:

    My jaw almost hit the floor when I saw the latest criticisms coming out of Redmond. When someone gets away with the same intellectual property abuses that MS has been getting away with for years it rubs them the wrong way. This is a blatant the pot calling the kettle black.

    As a parallel note MS’s stance in recent Patent cases against AT&T and others where they argue for weaker patent rights. If MS were winning the content wars with Google they would no doubt be arguing for weaker copyright protection.

    For how Microsoft plays the legal game see z4 v. Microsoft (E.D. Tex. 2006). Rather disturbing tactics.