Google spreads Astroturf as far as the eye can see. Check it out.

Addition: The Register covers the opening of Google’s new center for Google Studies – a €4.5 million academic institution in Berlin. Google says “it is an independent academic body.” And if you believe that, the company has a bridge to sell you in Bavaria.



17 thoughts on “G’accuse

  1. Considering how laws are made in the US, I can’t really blame them. As the article states: they’re doing what basically every large organisation is doing in America.

    I’m curious as to where you stand on the PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE law though. Did you read the bill? Do you think it’s a balanced approach, and why?

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 28, 2011, 5:38 am
    • >>>they’re doing what basically every large organisation is doing in America.

      It’s important to keep this in mind – that’s why I noted it. Whenever media companies do this, it tends to get a great deal of attention on blogs. As it should – I think transparency is important. I want to make sure there’s transparency on both sides.

      Whenever I speak about the book, people ask me why I didn’t write more about the terrible things labels did to artists. And I always say the same thing: Read “Hit Men,” which covers this incredibly well (and in a far more entertaining way than I ever could). My point is that this story has been done, and I wanted to nod to it, not retell it.

      As far as PROTECT IP, that’s another post in itself – and one that will take some time to write. (Hopefully next week.) In the meantime, here are two important things to keep in mind. First, it’s not nearly as bad as technology pundits claim (and it may not be as helpful as entertainment companies would like to believe). Second, it will evolve. These bills (PROTECT IP and E-PARASITE) are two starting points that need to be reconciled. These are starting points, not finished products.

      Finally – and most important – I’m very disappointed in the quality of the debate so far. These are ideas for limiting online copyright infringement. They’re not perfect, but they’re ideas. What I’d like to hear from the other side is some of their own ideas: Not for making money in other ways (which involves creators giving up rights) but for enforcing copyright in some way. So far, we really haven’t heard those ideas. The response to almost every idea for copyright enforcement is ‘you don’t need it’ or ‘it will break the Internet.’ That’s not a debate – it’s a tantrum.

      Posted by roblevine1 | October 29, 2011, 3:53 pm
      • Fair enough Robert; I agree that lobbying by the RIAA/MPAA does get a lot of attention. Personally I’m highly against all these kinds of campaign contributions. I put some very big question marks when it comes to politicians making new laws that favour one industry after they’ve received a large campaign contribution from that same industry. I think it completely removes the trust people should have in democracy.

        When it comes to PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE: I’ll wait for your column. I believe it’s certainly worth debating. I am however reminded of an article I read in a Dutch magazine: Internet, Privacy, Copyright: Choose Two. So far I haven’t found any logical counter argument to that article. Technology often simply is that binary.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 29, 2011, 6:30 pm
  2. Great read. It lays out Google’s agenda clearly. Yes most large corporations engage in these tactics, but the public needs to know about this, just like information regarding an oil spill. One could argue that information about Google is more important to most people’s daily lives. We use their products everyday and they gather information about us when we do.

    As to Mr. Hulshoff’s “balanced approach” question, why does the law have to be balanced? Laws against bank robbery are not “balanced”. Being able to exercise one’s Free Speech does not include the theft of another person’s Free Speech.

    Posted by TMD | October 28, 2011, 11:20 pm
    • Simple: our society is based on a few basic principles. Some of those are:
      1. Separation of the three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.
      2. Presumption of innocence until proven guilty

      The main reason I’m against the blocking of sites is that it’s senseless: it can easily be circumvented. Putting that aside, I do feel there’s only one branch who can make such decisions: the judicial. E-PARASITE does not fit that basic principle. Not only does it give such power to the executive branche, but also puts that obligation on ISPs by making them legally responsible for policing their networks. Not only can it easily be circumvented by using encrypted connections, but it also means ISPs will be forced to act as police and judge in order to not be held responsible.

      I’m sorry, but that’s not an acceptable law in my opinion. I agree that copyright infringement is a problem we need to solve, but that doesn’t mean we have to drop every basic principle of our society in order to do so.

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 29, 2011, 6:43 pm
  3. Laws have the irritating quality that companies will always skirt around the edges. We see that behaviour in practically every branch of company, from the RIAA to the MPAA, from Google to Microsoft, from Napster to the Pirate Bay. Write your laws too narrowly, and companies will skirt around it. Write them too broadly, and you’ll have a lot of collateral damage that people simply will not accept, and perhaps even a constitutional basis for cutting it down.

    I think one of the main problems we have is that copyright has expanded so far in duration and scope that many people don’t support it any more. It reminds me about the speech Thomas Babington Macaulay held in the UK parliament on February 5th, 1841 (http://homepages.law.asu.edu/~dkarjala/OpposingCopyrightExtension/commentary/MacaulaySpeeches.html), especially the last paragraph:
    I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesmen of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot. On which side indeed should the public sympathy be when the question is whether some book as popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the Pilgrims Progress, shall be in every cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich, for the advantage of the greatgrandson of a bookseller who, a hundred years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author when in great distress? Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom make nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the words of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 29, 2011, 6:56 pm
    • >>>I am however reminded of an article I read in a Dutch magazine: Internet, Privacy, Copyright: Choose Two.

      From a technology perspective, I do not think that is necessary. From a social perspective, it cannot be. From a legal perspective, privacy and copyright are rights – the Internet is not. I am not going to give up my legal rights so Google can make more money, so technologists need to start coming up with solutions.

      Posted by roblevine1 | October 29, 2011, 7:13 pm
      • This article was written from a technological point of view, and as said: I cannot find fault with it yet (trust me: I’ve tried).

        Yes, you can counter some of today’s infringement with technological solutions, but you cannot counter tomorrow’s. We’ve gone from cassettes, to video cassettes, to writable cds, to writable dvds, to Napster, to Kazaa, to Microsoft Network Neighbourhood, to bittorrent, to usenet. Practically any platform that can be used for communication can also be used for copyright infringement. Add in encryption (which is needed for privacy with regards to banking, etc.), and it’s a cat and mouse game of technology that cannot be won.

        So, taken the internet as it’s deployed (open standard on the OSI model with TCP/IP/UDP) (very expensive to replace), and add in privacy (e.g. encryption), and it’s practically impossible to enforce copyright.

        Take the internet, and try to enforce copyright, you’ll have to abolish all technology that can be used for privacy.

        If you want to keep encryption and enforce copyright, you’ll have to completely rebuild the internet from scratch as a media distribution platform, where new companies need to seek permission before they can build any new service. All new services like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, online newspapers, iTunes, etc. could not have been built without the open internet standard.

        Is there an alternative? Certainly. You could try expensive judicial fights, but so far that’s not brought the RIAA nor the MPAA much success. An alternative would be to legalise non-commercial copyright infringement in return for levies on internet connections or directly from the taxes. That would be the same approach that was used when television was introduced, and it worked out quite well there. Is it a perfect solution? Certainly not, but it might be a hell of a lot better than the alternatives. There are very good reasons why practically EVERY industry other than the entertainment industry is against E-PARASITE. Even technologists who have nothing to gain from copyright infringement have clearly stated that this will be disastrous.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 29, 2011, 7:32 pm
  4. >>>There are very good reasons why practically EVERY industry other than the entertainment industry is against E-PARASITE.

    Name some.

    Posted by roblevine1 | October 29, 2011, 7:49 pm
    • I spent quite a while on compiling a list when I found out someone had already done that for me: http://nsputnik.com/2011/07/against-protectip-act-list-of-people-and-orgs/

      Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 30, 2011, 8:54 am
      • I’m afraid it proves MY point, not yours. Other than the law professors, this is really all technology folks. And it’s a smaller group than it seems because some of the professors and activists are funded by the technology companies.

        To be fair, the list of groups favoring the bill isn’t so different – most of them are connected as well. (This has law professors but the other side has unions.) When you get down to it, the media companies want it because it will help them and the technology companies oppose it because it will hurt them. NEITHER ONE keeps the interests of the public in mind.

        If these groups don’t want this, what would they favor to protect my rights?

        So far, the silence has been deafening.

        Posted by roblevine1 | October 30, 2011, 4:08 pm
  5. Hmm, I count law professors from practically every major law school in the USA.
    I see 14 public interest groups, including the American Association of Law Libraries.
    4 major trade groups that include companies from a lot of different fields of technology including consumer electronics, operating systems, telecom industry, search engines, used-sale sites, etc.
    5 internet infrastructure technologists that have absolutely no interest in copyright infringement whatsoever.

    Just because you have a problem doesn’t mean there’s a good solution for it, nor that you should accept a bad solution in absence of a good one. Still, if you’re searching for a good solution, I’d suggest one that doesn’t involve destroying the basic structure of the internet nor one that takes away power from the judicial branch and gives it to the executive. Those branches are separated for very good reasons.

    As for solutions: part of the tech industry has been very busy building and selling you TPMs that haven’t done a thing to stop copyright infringement. We warned you it wouldn’t work, but you wanted it so you got it. Now we’re warning you again that this solution won’t work. Will you believe us this time?

    As I mentioned above: Internet, Privacy, Copyright: Choose Two. If you pick copyright as one of them, think about which one you’re willing to give up. Then consider how you’re going to convince the rest of society.

    Also: just because we don’t have a working solution doesn’t mean we can’t criticise these non-working solutions. As MimiAndEunice explained: http://mimiandeunice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/ME_431_OfferSolutions.png

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 30, 2011, 7:14 pm
    • Keep talking all you want. At the end of the day, it’s still the technology business, which profits from piracy.

      >>>As I mentioned above: Internet, Privacy, Copyright: Choose Two. If you pick copyright as one of them, think about which one you’re willing to give up. Then consider how you’re going to convince the rest of society.

      No. First, this is wrong, Second, I don’t have to convince people that I have the right to my work any more than you have to convince people of your freedom of speech. This is what you don’t seem to understand: These are my rights you’re talking about. I am losing patience with your inability to understand this.

      Posted by roblevine1 | October 31, 2011, 4:15 am
      • I’m sure that some of the players in the tech industry profit from copyright infringement, though many suffer as much from it too. Players like Apple, Microsoft, etc. all have their own problems with copyright infringement, but they’re not jumping for joy over this legislation. How does eBay profit? How does Intel profit? What about the artists at http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/artists/?

        No need to lose your patience: I understand perfectly. It’s the same copyright that protects my works, both professionally and my amateur works (software and music). That doesn’t mean we should be willing to destroy just about anything in an attempt to protect them. The internet, like any modern network, protects itself from breaking down. If a cable gets cut, the equipment automatically reroutes the traffic. If a DNS server goes down, it can switch to alternatives. What the internet infrastructure technologists are warning about is that if you start meddling with some of the basic pillars of the network, like e.g. DNS, the whole thing can come tumbling down. It also doesn’t mean we should do away with the presumption of innocence, and allow the executive branch take over the judicial task of determining who is or isn’t guilty of copyright infringement. Why not leave that decision where it belongs?

        All in all might even be debatable if the law would actually accomplish what it promises: stop copyright infringement, but it doesn’t! Every measure mentioned in there is focused on yesterday’s copyright infringement, and can (and will) easily be circumvented, while at the same time leave a lot of collateral damage. The technology sector has had the same discussion with regards to TPMs, when the MPAA insisted they needed anti-circumvention laws. You know, those laws that prevent me from writing an Open Source dvd-player, force me to rebuy my entire dvd collection should I ever move from Europe to the US (region coding), and forbid me from making a backup copy of my dvds to prevent my kid from scratching them, and yet those same laws that haven’t managed to do a single thing about preventing copyright infringement. Practically every movie is now protected by TPMs, designed by a consortium of some of the smartest companies in the field, and yet they’re shared all over the net, because TPMs are by definition incapable of stopping infringement. We warned them then that it wouldn’t help, but leave a lot of collateral damage. We were right. Anti-circumvention laws have done a lot of damage to legitimate innovation, but haven’t managed what they promised they’d do. This law is no different. It will have a huge impact on society, and will hardly have any impact on infringement. THAT is why you will need to convince society: to give up a lot in the idle hope that it will protect our rights.

        Personally I think we’d stand a much better chance to convince society of the importance of copyright without such bills, but we may have to seriously reconsider its scope and duration. I find it very disturbing that a one-issue Pirate Party can get so many votes within Europe. Perhaps it’s a sign that we have pushed too far in the past decades, and that we should look towards alternative solutions.

        Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 31, 2011, 7:22 am
  6. I agree – let’s re-consider the scope and duration. But that’s a red herring. The reason people don’t follow the law is that there’s no enforcement. We need some. If you don’t like this enforcement, suggest another idea.

    Posted by roblevine1 | October 31, 2011, 12:29 pm
  7. “We support artist’s rights and believe online piracy is a problem that needs to be dealt with. On the other hand, we will oppose any and all measures you propose to deal with it. So just…deal with it.”

    – Big Tech

    Posted by Technotopia | October 31, 2011, 6:31 pm
  8. By the way: I understand quite well that much I have to say may not quite be what you’d like to hear. Do trust that as far as technology is concerned I’m trying to paint an honest picture, at least as far as my understanding reaches. I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything nor will I withhold information if it contradicts my point of view.

    Posted by Pieter Hulshoff | October 31, 2011, 9:05 pm

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