Meanwhile, A MSFT v. Google Battle Brews…

It's always when I'm on the road. Microsoft's counsel today made some inflammatory comments (more here) about Google and copyright, infering that perhaps Google's entire approach to media was in violation of copyright. Google pointed me to a response by the head of the CIAA, here. This is not…

It’s always when I’m on the road. Microsoft’s counsel today made some inflammatory comments (more here) about Google and copyright, infering that perhaps Google’s entire approach to media was in violation of copyright. Google pointed me to a response by the head of the CIAA, here.

This is not Microsoft’s – or others – first attempt at playing to Big Media’s fears of Google. More as I have it…

Update: Google has provided me with this comment from David Drummond, their Senior Vice President Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer:

The goal of search engines, and of products like Google Book Search and YouTube, is to help users find information from content producers of every size. We do this by complying with international copyright laws, and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers and producers of content. In the publishing industry alone, we work with more than 10,000 partners around the world to make their works discoverable online, and in video, we recently added new partners including BBC and NBA. We look forward to working with even more partners to make more content discoverable online.

Just as Google is in a pitched debate with major media companies over YouTube, Microsoft pokes at its soft underbelly. I love this stuff. It literally writes itself.

11 thoughts on “Meanwhile, A MSFT v. Google Battle Brews…”

  1. I agree that this is getting quite interesting. Dont you sense that Google needs to start giving a bit more consideration to the media players? I also think that they need a few more coups like the one announced last week of 29,000 Springer books going up on Google Book Search — that is have already gone up. Well done Google and Springer!

    BTW does anyone understand the way Google Book Search counts its books. See comment here and link to GBS that lists all the Springer books. 46,600?

  2. Factor in Microsoft’s ongoing interest in search and Google’s headlong dive into the desktop (webtop?) application market, and this is just another warning shot in a much larger war. With any luck, some Google/Microsoft battles will be good for not only users but small businesses in the internet space.

  3. That’s funny. I just went to and searched for [john battelle predictions]. Looks like Microsoft is storing cached versions of your posts on their servers, and displaying snippets in the search results.

    Did Microsoft ask your permission before copying your content to their servers? How exactly is this different from Google storing the contents of books on their servers and displaying snippets as search results?

    Kettle, meet pot.

  4. mb: One “exact” way in which this is different is that, in some way and at some point, John intended his text to be viewed by every person connected to the web. He explicitly shared it. And, in order to share it, John recognized (as Larry Lessig likes to argue) that routers and buffers from his machine to my machine would all be making copies of that content. By putting it on the web, John gave permission for all this copying to occur.

    Also, for John’s book, “The Search”, John has written on this blog that he personally does not mind if Google scans his book. John is again explicitly giving permission.

    With Google’s library scanning project, the difference is that there was never an initial permission given given by the authors of the books. With the exception of a few authors here and there, most authors did not authorize either the digital scanning or caching of their work. Google just went out and cached it.

    What was that about the kettle?

  5. Sorry, JG, I’m not seeing the distinction. Are you saying that it’s OK to copy someone’s entire work and republish it if the work is published as bits on a server, but it’s not OK if the work is published as ink on paper?

    You’re saying that because John *intended* his work to be viewable on the Web, that it’s OK for Microsoft to copy it and show cached versions on Microsoft’s site? What if John *intended* for readers to see the ads on his own site, and now he’s losing money when people view the cached copy at How is this different from a print publisher, who also *intends* for her work to be read as widely as possible?

    In fact, doesn’t Microsoft’s cache of John’s page hurt John more than Google’s cache of a scanned book? In John’s case, he might be losing ad revenue. In the print case, Google just exposes more potential buyers to snippets of the author’s work.

    Seems to me that both Web publishers and print publishers have the same interest in protecting their intellectual property from being stolen.

    In the Web case, when Microsoft caches John’s content and makes it available at, Microsoft isn’t subtracting any value from John’s intellectual property. And if for some reason John doesn’t want Microsoft to spider his site, he could tell them not to in his robots.txt file.

    And in the print case, when Google indexes an author’s content and makes it searchable at, Google isn’t subtracting any value from the author’s intellectual property. And if for some reason the author doesn’t want her work indexed, she could opt out of the book scanning project.

    If there is a difference, it seems to me that Web page caches infringe more than indexing books, since it’s more likely the former would devalue the work, while the latter only adds to its value.

    Kettle, pot, black.

  6. Microsoft claims that any use that doesn’t have explicit authorization must be an infringing use. But while the media moguls wish this were true, it’s not actually what the law says (in any country). By this same logic, public libraries (the original search engines) should be closed, too.

    But it is no surprise. Vista is a clear indication that Microsoft wants to impose information slavery.

  7. On the proprietary video front I cannot find the Fox Local news video of the dog rescue in Denver yesterday on YouTube or any other video search/platform. Fox/Murdoch is getting downright stingy with their footage now.
    I can see them keeping it from GoogTube but to not making it available for embed or sharing is kinda stupid!!

  8. To me, it would seem that search engine “cacheing” would be a bit more in copyright issues. Also, stores online videos and multiple versions of websites.

  9. mb: Let me point out two facts:

    (1) If you go to (Google Germany) and do a search, you will see “Im Cache” links under many of the results. You don’t have to speak German to realize that this means “Cached Pages”.

    (2) According to a blog post yesterday by Philipp Lenssen, the Google Book Search, Germany Edition explicitly does not cache copyrighted books. They only scan books which are known to be copyright-free. (See

    To me, the fact that Google is explicitly making this distinction speaks volumes. Because if books and cached web pages ARE the same thing, then Google would not be simultaneously caching web pages (which are all still under copyright because no page on the web is older than 14 years), but not caching copyrighted books! Logical consistency demands that Google either cache both, or cache neither.

    But by picking and choosing, Google is already admiting, through these actions in Germany, that it sees books and cached web pages as different conceptual entities. So I see no problem with Microsoft making this same distinction, as Google has already led the way.

    Pot != kettle, QED.

    (By the way, this should in no-wise be used to imply that I don’t have any problem with Microsoft. In many other ways they have their own forms of “evil” behavior, many of which rub me the wrong way. It is just that, on this particular issue, Microsoft is proffering an extremely fair criticism of Google, and we need to evaluate that particular argument on its own merits.)

  10. I just want to correct a technical error. I checked cached copy of one blog entry on Live Search. I reloaded the page several times. The ad on the right hand changed from Webex to Nisan.

    It proves that even though his blog is cached but the ad is fresh.

    I am not not sure whether the same is true with all kinds of ads. I just experimented with John’s blog. I get an impression that search engines do not cache the images on a webpage. Therefore Ads on John’s blog were not cached, at least by Live Search.

  11. Hiroko,

    I disagree with your logic here: “By this same logic, public libraries (the original search engines) should be closed, too.”

    Public library is there for non-profit purpose. If Google keeps the book-search project non-profit, I don’t think anybody will have problem with that. 🙂

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