Google's Schmidt calls for regulators to hold their fire

Governments should let companies try out technological solutions to problems such as piracy before introducing regulation, Eric Schmidt has argued at the e-G8 event in Paris
Written by Tom Espiner on

Technological solutions to issues such as copyright circumvention should be tried out before governments consider legislation, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has told the e-G8 Forum in Paris.

Google's Eric Schmidt at e-G8

Eric Schmidt has said called on governments to let companies try technical solutions to issues such as piracy, before resorting to legislation. Credit: e-G8 Forum

Speaking in a panel discussion at the event on Tuesday, Schmidt cited the example of a checksum — an algorithm for checking data integrity — that Google uses to filter copyrighted content uploaded to its YouTube video service.

"Before we decide how we regulate, let's ask, 'Is there a technological solution that can scale and move quickly?'" Schmidt said. "Because we'll get around to it before governments [can legislate]."

Technology industry leaders such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon's Jeff Bezos are taking part in the e-G8 event to discuss the impact of the internet on the economy and society. The forum, held before an audience of hundreds of business leaders, politicians and academics, will feed its conclusions to the G8 conference for discussion by heads of government on Thursday and Friday.


Schmidt's comments came as Google faces regulatory scrutiny on a number of fronts, including antitrust probes and enquiries into its geolocation services.

Geolocation, combined with platforms that give access to data and online gaming, will be important internet drivers in the future, Schmidt said during the panel discussion on the internet and economic growth.

He added that government policy should focus on the easy availability of wired and wireless broadband, with at least 1MB provision for citizens. In addition, he argued that radio spectrum should not be auctioned off at too high a price, as operators will pass costs onto consumers.

"Governments need to be careful in not being too greedy in auctioning spectrum off," said Schmidt, who added that governments need to remove any blocks to "digging trenches and getting fibre on poles".

On the technology industry side, Schmidt praised Apple and other sector leaders for driving development forward.

"Today in our industry the most interesting developments have been our new broad platforms," said Schmidt. "The Apple platform has been tremendously successful... in e-commerce, it's eBay... and Google has multiple platforms."

Sarkozy keynote

Earlier on Tuesday at the e-G8 Forum, French president Nicholas Sarkozy said in an opening keynote speech that legislators need to tread carefully in introducing any internet regulation.

"We are truly aware of the power of the internet and at the same time the fragility of the system," said Sarkozy, who hosted the opening of the two-day discussion forum. "In this market which you are creating and which you have not yet stabilised... we have to be very careful. The idea of regulating for all is ill-suited to your economy."

Sarkozy was a prime mover behind France's Hadopi laws, which came into force in September and which introduced a 'three-strikes' approach to cutting off internet access for suspected file-sharers.

The French president said at the e-G8 that it was "extremely important to continue [the] dialogue" between businesses and legislators so as not to create instability in the internet economy.

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