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"Free for All: The Google Excuse"

October 23, 2005

Satire by
Lauren Weinstein


"Hey Lauren, it's Sal, how go things?"

"Oh, hi Sal. Nice of you to call. I probably shouldn't ask what you've been up to lately."

"Now, Lauren, what kind of attitude is that to take? And me calling to tell you about my latest great idea!" said Sal.

"That's what I was afraid of," I said.

"This one's a sure thing. I've figured out a way to get all of the music and movies anyone could want, and all without paying for them. And it's completely legal!"

"Yeah? How so?"

"I got the idea from Google's book project -- you know -- that Google Print for Libraries thingie where they scan copies of all the copyrighted books that they get for free through those library deals they made -- they don't even have to pay the copyright owners one thin dime!"

"Haven't there already been a couple of lawsuits filed against Google about that plan, from the author and publisher groups?"

"Never mind those. Listen -- I can use Google's logic to get free copies of films, music -- anything I want! All I have to do is borrow the CDs or DVDs, downloaded music or video or whatever, copy them, and then offer some sort of 'fair use' excerpt index service, just like Google is doing with the books. It's the perfect gimmick. Maybe I could runs ads with them too -- that's where Google is really raking it in. Hell, if Google can do this sort of thing with one kind of copyrighted work without paying, why can't anyone else do it too, and why should it be restricted just to books?"

"Well I don't know. Isn't Google offering some sort of opt-out to the publishers?"

"Oh yeah, sure, as long as the publishers specify each individual title and abide by Google's deadlines and other demands. But don't you see the beauty of this? Google is making all of the rules, and the copyright holders are at their mercy! Those Google guys are geniuses!"

"How are you going to offer an excerpt index for music and movies?"

"Well, remember that this is really just an excuse to get the stuff for free, but I figure like if someone searches for the word 'lemon' I'll give them thirty seconds of lemon tunes -- 'but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to ...'"

"I know the song, Sal."

"And for the movie lookups I can give them little video clips from 'Hard Day's Night' and 'Help!' and ..."

"That's John Lennon, not Lemon."

"Lennon? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, pretty sure."

"Hmm, I'll have to make a note of that, thanks."

"Look, Sal, don't you think that the record companies, movie studies, RIAA, MPAA, and half the population here in L.A. is going to come after you on this one? Is this really fair to the copyright holders, to make and keep complete copies that way, when you haven't even paid for their works once or asked their permission? Do you really think that what you're talking about is fair use?"

"Google thinks that doing it with books is fair use! And like Wernher von Braun said, 'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department.'"

"That's from an old Tom Lehrer song, Sal."

"Really? I'll have to add his albums to my copy list ..."

"Sal, shouldn't you wait on this at least until you see how the lawsuits against Google come out?"

"Naw. No way -- Google can't lose."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Are you kidding, Lauren? With that mass of data Google's got salted away on everyone's search activities, what judge is going to dare cross them? Do you really think that some stuffy old guy is going to risk having his S&M site searches and browsing exposed? Man, compared to the goodies that Google's probably got, the FBI files must be a drop in the bucket."

"Well, I must admit that you've got quite a concept there, Sal. It could change the recording and motion picture industries forever," I said.

"Yeah, I figure the idea is worth a mint. I wonder if I can patent it before I get ripped off," said Sal.

= = = = = =

Lauren Weinstein

For information about the author, please see: http://www.vortex.com/lauren

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