On Tuesday, Microsoft attacked fellow Internet giant Google, saying the search-engine company “systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important venue for monetizing their works.” This according to Microsoft attorney Thomas Rubin, in a speech for the Association of American Publishers.
The charges against Google stem from the Google Book Search. The initiative’s goal is to produce digital copies of as many books as possible, and free them up so anyone can search through the text of the work. The service then makes available short excerpts from those scans, unless the publishers ask Google to remove them from the service.
Microsoft claims that “Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best.” As evidence, Rubin points to a recent spat between YouTube, recently purchased by Google, and Viacom, which complained that more 100,000 copies of its movies and television shows were illegally available on the free video service. In response, the videos in question were quickly taken down.
Rubin also attacked Google over a lawsuit from January, in which two men from Missouri were charged with running websites which made commercial movies available illegally. Rubin said Google had taken money from their business, allowing them to use search terms like “download illegal movies.” He said Google knew the business was doing, and took the money anyway.
Continuing to hammer at Google, Rubin said that Google has somehow managed to “bestow upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books not covered by these publisher agreements without first obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.”
And apparently the publishers agree. Google is currently being sued by a group of publishers. Google’s response is that it is working within the fair use doctrine.
David Drummond, the chief legal officer for Google, said his company is working with media partners and is following copyright laws. “We do this by complying with international copyright laws, and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenues for authors, publishers and producers of content.”
For the last few years, Microsoft and Google have been going head to head over search engine supremacy, with Google’s search easily out-pacing Microsoft’s MSN search. Recently, Google announced that it will make a suite of office applications, that run directly through a web browser, available to corporate users for a $50 per year per user annual fee. Although not directly comparable in features, this is cheaper than the cost of licensing a copy of Microsoft Office, which can range anywhere from $147 to $679.
In addition, Microsoft itself is a player in the book-scanning business. Live Search Books, not yet available, is planned to be a similar online book service, and Microsoft has set aside more than half a billion dollars on its brand new advertising and search engine.
Because of the rivalry between the two companies, many industry analysts are not surprised by the recent lashing out from Microsoft. “I think they’re trying to get the companies on a level playing,” said Robert Toomey, of E.K. Riley Advisors in Seattle. “For the last six years, Microsoft has been embroiled in anti-trust lawsuits and sluggish sales. By chastising Google, Microsoft is trying to differentiate itself from its opponent and position itself on a higher, moral ground.”
Not everyone agrees, of course, including some Microsoft employees. Don Dodge, a director of business development at Microsoft, wrote this on his blog: “Really dumb move! What are these Microsoft lawyers thinking? Even if they are right, which is debatable, what reaction do they expect from the public at large?”
Apparently a positive one, as Microsoft stock rose 28 cents on Tuesday, while Google gained $16.61 per share.