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Antitrust incoming? A view of Google from 30,000 ft

Have they bitten off more than they can compute?

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YouTube was Google’s early catastrophic venture into the world of taking other people’s stuff, and the decision to get into the world of user generated content was made right about the same time that Google started digitizing other people's books.

The rumour I heard is that the liability escrow fund on the YouTube purchase agreement, that was part of the sale to Google, is over a billion dollars now. That's close to exceeding Google’s purchase price for YouTube. That's because of the Viacom litigation. Viacom is the other "loveable" old guy in their lives. Then there's Google Books. They're now being sued in France and in Germany that I know of and probably other places. If they lose a few of these cases...

“Microsoft didn't go and digitize all the works of western civilisation without permission!”

Then there's the YouTube class action. No one ever talks about the class action suit - it includes the Premier League, and publishers. These guys won't allow the law to be perverted, like the book publishers have. There you have the beginnings of Google realising it's biting off more than it can chew.

Google's spends phenomenal amounts of money on litigation and lobbyists. Every time you turn around, they've got a new bunch of lobbyists. They apparently gave Adword sales to some political group - how do you even track that? Unfortunately people are spending time figuring out how to fend off Google, rather than licensing.

The comparisons to Microsoft are interesting - you were there at Wilson Sonsini when those antitrust lawsuits were gearing up. How would you compare the two?

Microsoft were nowhere near as aggressive as Google. The Microsoft antitrust litigation was whether their browser was separate from OS. It wasn't that they'd gone and digitized all the works of western civilisation without permission!

One of the lawyers who brought the original civil action against Microsoft, which became the DoJ Antitrust case is representing Microsoft against Google: Gary Reback. Google is the New Big Dog.

But before that, at the labels when I dealt with Microsoft on the music licensing side - they always got a license. They never came to you and never said they don't need one. And they always paid. They never just took the position 'you get nothing.' Apple too. Rip Mix Burn nixxed that, but it was quickly corrected.

Apple are a shining city on a hill on how to deal with property rights for all to see. Microsoft is one of the leading proponents of protecting and respecting intellectual property rights and have many good public statements on the issue. There are none — and I mean none - from Google.

Whenever Google get caught up, they seem to say things like copyright owners can’t set their own price, or "complacency caused by past monopolies, not technology, that has been the real threat to the news industry." Well. if it’s not valuable, then why does Google take it?

Instead, you see a conscious effort to undermine creators rights through litigation and shaping of public opinion - the latest being the “moral panics” campaign which attempts to control speech by questioning the bona fides of anyone who would say that file bartering is stealing. Like Apple, I guess.

I guess you could all it the “Don’t be Moral” campaign.

Juxtapose the “don’t be moral” campaign against the latest exercise of Google’s monopoly/monopsony power—Google’s unexplained shutdown of Studiobriefing.net which the company said Google cut off from running Adwords advertising and removed from search results. For a company that is all up in the “net neutrality” concerns, shutting off actual speech needs to be explained.


So has Google bitten off more than it can chew? Or has it the money to buy its way out of trouble? Comments, as usual, are welcome. Click the byline or here, both give you a direct mailto. ®

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