Microsoft Claims Google ‘Bolsters’ Piracy

NEW YORK — Microsoft  copyright attorney Thomas Rubin accused rival Google  of profiting handsomely from online theft, the latest arrow slung between two software giants struggling to corner online markets.

Rubin, who made his accusation in an address to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) here today, said that Google employees “actively encouraged advertisers” to build ad programs around key words referring to pirated software, music and movies illegal copies of digital content.

“These actions bolstered Web sites dedicated to piracy and reportedly netted Google around $800,000 in advertising revenues from just four such pirate sites,” Rubin said

“These are not the actions of a company that has the interests of copyright owners as one of its priorities,” he added.

And while he prefaced his remarks by saying that his goal “is not to issue an attack,” the bulk of his remarks constituted a blistering attack on Google’s business model, which relies partly on unfettered access to copyrighted material.

Google, which is being sued by the AAP and others, has maintained that its copying of copyrighted material constitutes fair use because it will only display small portions of the copyrighted texts.

In a statement provided to, Google general counsel David Drummond painted Google Book Search as a way for publishers to market their content, and for smaller publishers to get visibility they would not otherwise get.

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

Google’s invocation of the fair use doctrine was also supported by Center for Internet & Society resident fellow and attorney David Olson during a speech to the Software Information Industry Association in January of this year.

Olson said Google’s Library Project constitutes fair use because Google will only display a snippet of text.

But Rubin disputed that assertion, saying that Google is “concocting a novel ‘fair use’ theory” that “systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works.”

He also said Google creates no content of its own but “make[s] money solely on the backs of other people’s content, raking in billions through advertising revenue and IPOs.”

But Rubin also said that publishers should not close their eyes to a changing environment in which consumers expect to preview content before they buy it, and argued that content owners will have to be flexible as the industry gravitates toward online books.

“DRM tools and other technical restrictions need to be adopted carefully so that they do not frustrate consumers’ legitimate experiences and expectations, or else you risk losing the vast new market that’s before you,” he warned.

While Rubin blasted Google for dubious business practices, he also took the opportunity to promote Microsoft’s own vision of online book searching.

Rubin presented Microsoft’s book search initiative, which includes two programs, as a model for future cooperation between publishers and online distributors.

The Publisher program, which is currently in beta testing, which allows publishers to choose which parts of copyrighted books can be displayed to readers, display click-to-buy links next to their books and edit metadata.

Microsoft and Google are just two of the many players working to chart their courses in the realm of online publishing.

Earlier this morning, Mark Bide, project coordinator for a consortium of international newspaper and book publishers, announced a standardized framework for automated permissions. The automated content access protocol (ACAP) can be used by search engines for access and use.

Bide said that ACAP is in discussions with “all three major search engines” and is about to sign agreements with two of them concerning a proof-of-concept implementation of a new standard.

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