Microsoft Blasts Google Over Copyright

Michael Hayes
REDMOND, Wash. — Search engine juggernaut Google has made its push into new media at the expense of copyright holders, a top Microsoft lawyer told a gathering of the Association of American Publishers.

“Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue and IPOs,” said Thomas Rubin, associate general counsel for Microsoft. “Google takes the position that everything may be freely copied unless the copyright owner notifies Google and tells it to stop.”

Rubin’s criticism reflects similar complaints leveled at Google in the past few years. Around the globe, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company has defended claims that its popular services, such as Google Image, Google Video and Google News, infringe on the intellectual property rights of others.

In the U.S., Norman Zada, who owns Perfect 10 magazine and its sister website, charges that Google’s Image Search violates U.S. copyright law because it allows the search engine and other companies to profit from the use of his content without permission. That case is currently before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In Belgium, Google unsuccessfully defended claims that its news service infringed on local media outlets. Google is in the process of appealing the ruling.

Agence France-Presse has sued Google in the U.S. and in France, alleging copyright infringement because the search engine’s news service includes the agency’s headlines, news summaries and photographs without permission.

“In essence, Google is saying to you and to 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,’” Rubin said.

Rubin also noted that Google’s recent acquisition of YouTube would force the company to navigate a “copyright minefield.”

In defense of Google, David Drumond, the company’s chief legal officer, said the search engine works with more than 10,000 publishing partners worldwide to bring content into the digital age.

“We do this by complying with international copyright laws,” Drummond said, “and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers and producers of content.”

While Microsoft has fired an opening salvo in a copyright war with Google, this latest battle is part of a larger struggle for dominance between both firms, Info-Tech analyst Carmi Levy said, adding that both companies infringe on copyrights online.

“Microsoft does what it's accusing Google of doing,” he said. “Both play with copyrights. Today, it's Microsoft accusing Google and tomorrow it will be vice versa. And in the meantime, copyright holders lose.”