Google gets defensive, all over the world

Google is playing defense.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor on

It is a $150 billion market cap irony when perhaps the most powerful company in the world decries the use of our world’s legal system, by others. 

Earlier today I discussed a legal judgment against Google in Belgium and asked “Will Google pay for content?” 

Google has acknowledged at its blog that “the Belgian court, which last year ruled against us in the Copiepresse case has reaffirmed its original decision.”

Google nevertheless proceeds to note not only that it finds the decision “disappointing,” but offers the world’s content owners a Googley piece of advice: 

There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs.

Google has a 100 person strong legal team that is reinforced by top counsel as needed throughout the world. Why? Because Google’s business model is based on a high-stakes legal gamble. 

In “A ‘Dire Straits’ Web barter economy?: Links for nothing, content for free” I discuss how Google shrewdly barters the lure of prospective search engine links for free access to content in order to achieve its hefty profit margins.


In “Google: Our fuzzy (legal) logic prevails, ‘like it or not’” I discuss Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s subtle warning to rights holders about how a “focus on the legal aspects,” is not the way to approach a relationship with number one search engine Google.

Schmidt’s confident dismissal of “legal aspects” relating to others’ content ownership rights, coupled with a “whether people like it or not” stance, are no surprise. I heard him publicly proclaim Google’s strategic reliance on fuzzy “law of the land”—fair use, safe harbor—at SES last August: 

We find ourselves in litigation and the litigation was expensive, and diverts the management team, etcetera, from our mission…most of the litigation in my judgment was really a business negotiation being done in a courtroom. And I hate to say that, but that is my personal opinion. And in most cases a change in our policy or a financial change would in fact address many of the issues.

Exactly, Mr. Schmidt. If Google gave up its predilection for “ignoring conventional wisdom in designing its business” and licensed content from the get go, there would be no need for “expensive” litigation. 

Google will not change its reactive handling of copyright infringement issues, however, because if Google had to pay for content, like every other “conventional” business, than it would not have the super profit margins or market cap that has made it the darling of Wall Street.

Google is tickled to have an unlevel playing field, as long as it is on what it perceives to be the higher plane. 

Once Google finds itself having to play like everyone else, however, it decries the situation, as it has today in Belgium and as it did last week in North Carolina.

SEE: Google defends $165 million ‘few strings attached’ tax breaks

ALSO: YouTube riches: Social video production or social video pirating? and Google: Is robots.txt really a copyright infringement defense?

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