Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt today said his company would challenge legislative efforts to shut off access to websites like Pirate Bay that traffic in pirated and counterfeit goods, even if they were passed by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States.
In a rhetorical retread of the sky-is-falling cries from Google-supported, so-called “consumer interest groups” who line up to oppose copyright enforcement efforts, Schmidt reportedly raised the specter of free speech limitations as the basis for his position.
But the self-interested hand-wringing is a bit much given Google’s history of reaping the benefits of doing business in China for years while censoring content at the Chinese government’s behest.
Where rogue websites are concerned, Google profits from ad placement no matter whether the content is licensed or not. Given a recent study showing nearly one-fourth of the internet bandwidth globally is consumed by exchange of infringing content, it is only reasonable to assume someone at the Google campus is counting the potential lost eyes on ads and calculating the financial impact on the company.
Indeed there is even publicly documented history of Google knowingly and purposefully working with pirate websites to increase traffic to such websites and profits to Google from the Sponsored Links/Adwords programs. In conjunction with the settlement of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the major Hollywood studios against Luke Sample, Brandon Drury and their companies for operation of subscription based websites devoted to helping consumers find and download pirated copyrighted works, Sample's Affidavit was filed by one of the defendants testifying to the fact that Google worked directly with the illegal website to drive traffic to it and increase Google’s revenues from its participation in the sponsored links program. In fact, Google’s ad teams even made suggestions designed to optimize conversion rates by using keywords targeted to pirated content – such as suggesting downloading films still in theatrical release, that obviously were not available yet in any authorized format for home viewing.
Passing laws these days is an arduous process and the fact that a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee, not to mention 42 U.S. state attorneys general, have looked at the approach and endorsed it, should be indication that numerous behind-the-scenes legal minds have looked at the language and determined it passes muster.
As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pointed out at a news conference last month, the Judiciary Committees considering this issue are experts in first amendment and due process issues. “It doesn’t do any good to pass legislation that doesn’t stand up. We’re not doing this to feel good,” he said.