|Rogue Website Legislation: Google Says, “Don’t Be Evil… Unless It Helps Google”|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, January 05 2012
As contemporary examples of malignant irony go, it’s difficult to top Google.
Recall Google’s ostensible corporate motto: “Don’t be evil.” According to Google itself, that extends beyond mere customer interaction:
“’Don’t be evil.’ Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But ‘Don’t be evil’ is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally – following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.”
Here’s the irony. Google somehow manages to arouse righteous legions of supposed anti-corporatist activists on its behalf (think sunshine anarchists and libertarians of convenience). Yet Google itself exercises more self-serving, crony capitalist throw weight than any counterpart entity.
For example, consider so-called Net “Neutrality,” with which conservatives and true libertarians are now familiar, that would suddenly empower the federal government to micromanage Internet service. Google stands to gain enormous free-rider benefits, which explains why it is the chief corporate proponent of that proposed regulatory expansion.
Or think of Google Books, which posts the text of books that Google has gone ahead and scanned for viewing on its site. Who cares if Google hasn’t first obtained permission from the actual authors and creators, right? Google counts on the sheer cost and hassle of litigation to discourage individual creators against putting up a legal fight to protect their rights.
How does that square with “Don’t be evil?”
Or how about this? Last August, Google voluntarily agreed to a $500 million fine for assisting Canadian online pharmaceutical sellers in accessing American consumers. That amount is an entire Solyndra, and one of the largest forfeiture penalties in U.S. history. Google fully admitted that it, “improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to run advertisements that targeted the United States,” and prosecutors added that Google, “was fully aware as early as 2003 that generally it was illegal for pharmacies to ship controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the United States from Canada.”
But once again, it’s not Google’s health or property at stake, so who cares?
Just this week, Google acknowledged that paid bloggers promoted its Chrome Internet browser in violation of professed company policy against “promoting products without necessarily providing a benefit to users.”
Now, Google’s latest scorched-earth campaign encourages opposition to proposed Congressional legislation – the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the House, and the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, in the Senate. Together, those bills seek to address foreign Internet piracy of U.S. intellectual property.
More specifically, the bills target foreign rogue websites that would already be subject to seizure if located within the U.S. Such criminal sites continue to pirate American intellectual property, which accounts for an enormous portion of domestic jobs, exports and gross domestic product.
And contrary to false criticisms of the proposed legislation, the bills incorporate exhaustive due process protections for all parties involved. That is important, because opponents falsely allege that the government or individual parties could somehow arbitrarily silence innocent websites. To the contrary, the legislation explicitly incorporates the very same Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that apply to all litigation within our judicial system. That means relief can only be granted – by courts, not prosecutors or private parties – after demonstrating such prerequisites as notice to adverse parties, specific facts that “clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage” will occur, specific details justifying relief, and the opportunity for adverse parties to present their case.
The two companion bills also punish anyone who brings a false claim, and explicitly protect defendants from technically unfeasible burdens. They also allow courts to modify relief in the interests of justice and provide both compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees and costs for any defendant wrongfully accused.
Importantly, the bills are also supported by such conservatives as Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee) in the House, and Marco Rubio (R – Florida) in the Senate. So when opponents of the legislation claim that it’s all some sort of liberal Hollywood movie studio cabal, they are simply not telling the truth.
Despite those realities, Google continues to pour its corporate resources into opposing the legislation and falsely encouraging followers to fight those common-sense provisions.
And why not? It’s not Google’s creations, survival or intellectual property at stake, after all. Quite the opposite, it’s in Google’s selfish interest to continue serving as a see-no-evil conduit for such foreign piracy.
“Don’t be evil?” Hardly.
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