Sunday, November 06, 2005

Google Napster & Law : Is there a thread ?

 All of us love patterns. Pattern, routine, framework, predictability  .It give us a set path to live our life. Human race is by nature programmed to be conformist.  Most of the time we want our future to be a continuation of past only. Not only continuation but also past perfect continuation. J

I admit I like pattern too. In my personal life, my room, traffic on my way to work. I want a total pattern & predictability there. But I don't expect a pattern in few things like my girlfriends & Internet market place. In this respect past few months have been very amusing and puzzling for me. First I had no girlfriend for a month now and secondly the funny things happening around Google Print.

After recovering from a 4 yearlong slowdown in economy. Market is on high again. Veterans say that it's almost like mid 90's when entrepreneurs were hero and big ideas were everywhere. History seems to be repeating it self. Market has come a full circle. Yesterday Napster and Netscape was torchbearer of this spirit. Today it's Google. I agree. But some folks go a step further in their quest to find the pattern.

Recently Google Announced and rolled back its plans for Google Print. The grand vision of putting all the books in world for search was a dream comes true. If anybody can do it was Google for sure.
But after facing a huge protest form publishers and Authors Google decided to limit its plans to those books, which are already in public domain. A great idea killed in infancy.

Google enthusiasts, copyright lawyers and blogger have a field's day chronicling this saga, and as we are living in 90's like era again. It was not surprising that people compared Google Print to Napster. Victim of copyright law. Martyr in the quest of democratization of web, people give fancy titles to both companies. And a pattern is born. There is a similarity in both stories     a common thread. Is it? Is there a common thread here?
If yes than what is it? Lets see.

Honestly I have never used Napster myself. I only read about it. It was a P2P site for file swapping and people used to use it for exchanging mp3 files. It was a gross transgression of copyright law. Music companies sued Napster and it was forced to shut down and now it's working in pay per download way. Napster is dead but P2P file swapping is not. We have lime wire, kazza, and other file swapping sites on net. Nobody seems to bother about them.

Now it looks right to close down Napster as it was causing copyright infringement. But if you look at it more deeply you will find that closing down the Napster has nothing to do with copyright. Napster was a file swapping network nothing else. If I fancy myself as an Elvis Presley in waiting, I can record a song in my voice, upload it on the site and if anybody wants they can listen to it. Where is the issue?

Million-dollar Question is can an application service provider be held liable for misuse of his application?

 I don't think so. If that is true than we should close down AK47 factories in Russia as terrorist world over are using it. We should close down Gmail as any terrorist might use it for exchanging information. We should close down all tea stall and bars in downtown Bombay as most of the drug deals are scripted there. But we don't do that we only choose to shut down Napster. Why?

Now what about Google Print?  We all are going to library since childhood. "Soochna Kendra " in my neighborhood was my fav. Hangout in my teen. Do you think library as a copyright infringement?   I don't think so.

Now if your neighborhood library decides to make a little money by putting small advertisements on the walls of lobby. Will you cry foul? I don't think so. Google Print seems to be doing the same thing.

There is surely a pattern here. But I think most folks diagnosed it wrong. Pattern is not copyright, pattern is Money and power moneybags have to mould the law for their own good.

Problem with our law is that they are mostly based on interpretations. Courts in this case have supported the moneybag's version of law. Big business group in publishing, media and entertainment are afraid of the massive reach of Internet. A neighborhood library can help only neighborhood kids it can't serve whole world. But Google Print can.

 Publisher or record labels both are middlemen so they will be worse hit if singer /author find a platform to directly reach to Listeners / Readers. Both Napster and Google were morphing in to such platform. For any emerging hot technology like Google or Napster. this type of resistance in expected . so why did Google survived and Napster busted ? because Google is a listed company and have pile of cash to fight back . Its again the money factor .

Amusing observation is the timing of launch Google Print . it s very near to the announcement of goggle's  quarterly result . and you will be happy to learn that all this buzz , noise and cacophony over Google Print  has caused a 7 fold rise in goggle's stock . If it was a calculated move then  I  salute the marketing folks at Google. 

Moral of story :

Follow the buzz and you will find the honey &
all things boils down to money .


Prashant Singh
Ladies & Gentelman ! Take My Advice
PullDown Your Pants & Slide on ICE

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