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Microsoft vs Google  

2007-03-09 12:12:11|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Microsoft's CopyrightAssault on Google

Hoping to convincepublishers to back its own online book search service, the softwaretitan comes out swinging against the search giant

by CatherineHolahan

 

Microsoft vs Google - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒 Microsoft vs Google - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

Microsoft threw a one-two public relations punch against Googleon Mar. 6. The sparring got under way when Microsoft (MSFT)attorney Thomas Rubin publicly criticized Google's (GOOG)position on copyright—first in a newspaper editorial and thenlater the same day at a publishing industry conference.

The software giant's complaint? Google, in the name oforganizing the world's information, is trampling on the rights ofcontent owners. It's true that Google's attitude toward copyrighthasn't won it many friends among established media companies. Lastmonth, MTV-owner Viacom (VIA) calledout Google for failing to provide better copyright filtering toolson its video-sharing site YouTube, among other things (seeBusinessWeek.com, 2/2/07, "Viacom's High-Stakes Duel with Google"). Similarly, severalbook publishers, including BusinessWeek parent McGraw-Hill(MHP), Penguin, and Viacom's Simon & Schuster, havesued Google over its initiative to make books searchable bydigitally scanning major library collections (see BusinessWeek.com,4/24/06, "Ganging Up on Google").

Microsoft vs Google - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

In an address given at the Association of American Publishersannual meeting, Rubin accused Google of turning its back onpublishing partners and "concocting" an interpretation of copyrightlaw that allows it to violate content owners' rights. "In my view,Google has chosen the wrong path for the longer term because itsystematically violates copyright and deprives authors andpublishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works. Indoing so, it undermines critical incentives to create," Rubinsaid.

Fighting Back

Google's response was to reaffirm its commitment to complyingwith copyright laws and reiterating what it considers benefits ofits services. "The goal of search engines, and of products likeGoogle Book Search and YouTube, is to help users find informationfrom content producers of every size," wrote David Drummond,Google's chief legal officer, in a statement. "We do this bycomplying with international copyright laws, and the result hasbeen more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors,publishers, and producers of content."

Microsoft vs Google - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

 

But Google's executives must have been wondering what they haddone to provoke Microsoft's public ire. After all, what doesMicrosoft gain by picking fights? An obvious, albeit small, benefitis raising awareness of Microsoft's competing book search product.Until Rubin's article in the Financial Times, there waslittle buzz about Microsoft's Live Search Books, which was launchedfor testing in December. Google Book Search, on the other hand, hasbeen oft discussed and debated since its launch in 2004. Googledoes not yet have market share figures, but it notes that it hasscanned well over a million books.

Seeking Differentiation

Arriving to market two years after a major competitor istypically a disadvantage for a company, unless its offeringconsiderably improves on the existing product. Clearly, Microsoftbelieves striking partnerships with publishers could give itsproduct that extra boost. In his speech, Rubin encouragedpublishers to work with Microsoft instead of alternatives."Microsoft is committed to making these decisions responsibly,respectfully, and with the goal of sustaining both artisticcreativity and widespread access by consumers to online content. Wewant to join with all of you in urging other providers of Internetsearch and online content hosting services to do the same," saidRubin.

To attract those partnerships, Microsoft has developed aninterface for its publisher program that Rubin says allowspublishers to choose the amount of text a reader may preview,create click-to-buy links next to their books, and edit search dataabout their books. The tech titan also promises to get copyrightowners' consent before digitally scanning the book.

Such promises resonate with allies such as the Authors Guild(AG), which is suing Google over its book search program. "We wouldcertainly endorse most, if not all, of what Microsoft had to say,"says Paul Aiken, executive director of AG, an associationrepresenting more than 8,000 writers, according to its Web site.Aiken adds that the group would be "open to working with"Microsoft.

Permission Granted?

Microsoft vs Google - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

But how much does Microsoft get from such endorsements, and isGoogle the worse for rankling book publishers? Google doesn'treally need the publishers to agree to digital scans of their work.It is already scanning the books, thanks to its agreements with 13big libraries, and letting Web surfers search for the work theywant. The company doesn't allow users to read copyrighted librarybooks online. It only provides a few lines of text and the title,publisher, and copyright information necessary to get that bookfrom a local library, book shop, or online store such as Amazon(AMZN). Google shows several-page excerpts fromcopyrighted books only when it has publishers' consent.

Microsoft's punches could pack a wallop if Google loses itslawsuit with several publishers. In that case, Microsoft's bid forpublisher affection could have significant benefits. Google couldbe forced to stop scanning books without express consent. Thenpublishers could potentially give permission to Microsoft whileshunning Google's service, giving the former a selection advantage.A publisher victory means "one gets the content and the other onedoesn't," Aiken says.

But Google has more legal ground to stand on than Microsoft maythink, says Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred vonLohmann. For a judge to rule that Google's digitizing content isnot "fair use" and compliant with U.S. copyright law, lawyers wouldhave to prove that Google Book Search is harming the market for theoriginal content. A short excerpt, says von Lohmann, shouldn't keepsomeone from buying a book. In fact, he thinks it should enticethem to go to the library or make a purchase. "I certainly hopethat, when the dust settles on this lawsuit, people won't rememberthe copyright lawsuit—they will just remember that Google openedthe doors for what will ultimately become the greatest thing sincethe Library of Alexandria," says von Lohmann.

Aiken argues that the market could potentially suffer if, say,the excerpts spoil the ending of books or, in the case ofreference-type books, give people the information they want withoutrequiring purchase of the whole text. Publishers also say courtsshould set a permission precedent to keep other would-be Googlesfrom making digital copies of works (see BusinessWeek.com,10/20/05, "Google's Escalating Book Battle").

Until the lawsuit is resolved, though, Microsoft may have tojust resort to public jabs—and hope that some of them land whereit hurts.

 

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