A debate titled: The freedom perspective of digital media with William Echikson, Communications Director of Google EMEA seemed promising. It doesn’t happen everyday you can hear the future Google plans directly from one of the leaders. It turned out differently. After the debate you could leave the room rather disoriented. Is Google really just looking for more content to earn more and do we need the government to protect our copyrights?
William Echikson visited Gdansk 22 years ago as a reporter. Sending news was completely different from today. The Internet provides everybody the freedom to share their news with the world. It decreases the obstacles for free expression. On the other hand the Internet is an area where breaching copyrights happens on a regular basis.
The Google mission
Google has been started by two guys working from a garage not knowing how to make money. They basically concentrated on gaining as many visitors as possible. We can conlude this appeared to be a good concept. Today Google earns thanks to the high amount of visitors. This enables them to sell advertisements. According to William “Google is just an advertising company”.
Google aims to disclose more and more information through the Internet, they offer a platform where others can publish content. Basically this should generate even more visitors of course. The more frequent Internet users will visit Google sites the more advertisement space they can sell. William discussed two examples: Google Books and Google News.
Google Books aims to publish books you cannot buy anymore. Think about copyright free older books. They already agreed with several libraries to publish selected books. They plan to scan a tremendous amount of books from American libraries in about 8 years time. Comparable projects would take most governments at least 20 years.
There are also many books which are no longer available anymore, out of print. The publisher still owns the copyright. Google enables them to publish these books online to make them available to an increased audience. It’s up to the copyright owner to decide whether or not the reader has to pay. Of course Google will share in the future sales, but is this wrong?
Something similar is applicable to Google News. By publishing news on Google News, which is ads free, newspapers are receiving more traffic on their websites. By selling advertisement space on the news papers website both Google and the news papers earn because of all the generated traffic.
Is governmental control needed to protect our copyrights?
In the beginning of Google Books they published pieces of still copyrighted books. The intention was to show the publishers the potential of Google Books and to achieve a win-win situation. Under pressure of the EU the European copyrighted books have been removed from Google Books.
One of the main questions is whether or not the government should act like that. Do we have to be protected against Google? You could say that Google is digitizing all this information for their own gain only. Google is a normal company, that has to earn money. Enabling them to digitize everything and to store it in their databases can lead to abuse by Google. They can use all the content to improve their language algorithms. This could lead to improved search and translation services which Google could start asking money for.
The governmental control concerns Google. It blocks the openness of the Internet. Turkey in example has just announced a two year ban on YouTube. Google had a lot of freedom in China around the Olympic games. But recently it became impossible for Google to offer the openness they want.
In Europe there is a fundamental issue. Take the Google directors in Italy who have been convicted of a crime because of one indeed horrible movie which was online. According to William the movie makers have to be punished, not the providers of a content sharing platform.
More and more artists/copyright owners decide to go online. Monte Python has been fighting for years to protect their copyrights. Many people were illegaly publishing Monte Python material. Recently they decided to stop fighting and to join them. They allowed Google to publish their movies online. And they profit from this decision.
What’s wrong with content sharing?
Enabling people to publish content online is one of Google’s aims and in my opinion it’s logical they want to earn money for that. Google is investing fortunes in the development of their platform and sooner or later this has to pay off. But this doesn’t mean governmental control is not needed. We should prevent a company like Google will abuse its position. Copyrights have to be respected.
Google claims they do the best they can to prevent copyright breach. If somebody reports copyright breach Google will take appropriate measures. They also try to prevent copyright breach by scanning material which have been published online.
On the other hand more and more people decide to share their “copyright” with others through creative commons licenses. They believe the end result will improve by sharing. Platforms like Google support this in a perfect way. They increase the potential audience and make you can reach people you wouldn’t reach in the traditional way.
Poland, Gdansk, it’s time to open up!
The legal structure in Poland hardly enables a more open approach to sharing artistic rights. Gdanks is a candidate to become the European Capital of Culture in 2016 and uses the pay off: “Freedom of Culture, Culture of Freedom”. That’s why Gdansk should stimulate that artists start sharing their copyrights through more open creative commons licenses. By doing so Gdansk can stay the city of freedom, a status Gdansk gained because of the Solidarity “revolution” in the 80’s.
What’s is your opinion about the increase of online available information? Do you have experience with creative commons licenses? Do we have to watch out for these Google activities?