March 7, 2007
I am far from a Google apologist. Nor am I a Microsoft hater.
Well, OK, I’ve had some “interesting” experience with Microsoft (for those of you who don’t know the details I am not going to share them here) and have forever sworn off Windows, but the latter is just because it is crappy software.
That said, Microsoft’s widely circulated attack on Google’s copyright policy was a pretty lame combination of pandering to the audience and a PR stunt.
I am not sure what they thought they were accomplishing.
I am not a copyright law expert, so I won’t opine on whether or not Google’s book search efforts fall within the “fair use” exception.
But this I will say: Google isn’t hiding what it is doing, and argues that its initiative here both complies with copyright law and serves the public interest. Google VP David Eun (full disclosure, Eun is a buddy from college days) lays out the argument on Google’s blog.
Frankly I don’t think I buy all of Google’s spin, and as an investor in early stage Internet ventures I have the exact same concerns about Google that VCs in the 90s used to about Microsoft.
But I think it is more than ironic that it is Microsoft calling Google to the carpet. I was intimately involved in the Senate’s Microsoft hearings, and know way more than I care to about the business practices at issue. It would be innapropriate for me to get into those practices in this forum. What to me was the most amazing part of my Microsoft experience wasn’t that they crossed the line — lots of companies have and will. Rather it was the cavalier attitude the company had to understanding where the line was drawn and whether or not its employees made a good faith effort to stay on its right side. In its hubris, Microsoft felt from the very top down through the ranks that it genuinely was above the law. I found that deeply disturbing.
Say what you will about Google — I will too — but I am pretty sure that Google management is pretty attentive to complying with legal requirements, copyright or other. The Microsoft legal department evidently has a short memory.