SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) is set to launch a blistering attack on rival Google Inc. (GOOG.O) on Tuesday for what the software giant argues is the Web search leader’s “cavalier” approach to copyright protection.
In prepared remarks to be delivered to the Association of American Publishers, Microsoft Associate General Counsel Thomas Rubin argues that Google’s move into new media markets has come at the expense of publishers of books, videos and software.
The Microsoft attorney’s comments echo arguments at the heart of a 16-month-old copyright lawsuit against Google brought by five major book publishers and organized by the Association of American Publishers, an industry trade group.
“Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue and IPOs,” says Rubin, who oversees copyright and trade secret law at Microsoft.
“Google takes the position that everything may be freely copied unless the copyright owner notifies Google and tells it to stop,” said Rubin, noting that Microsoft takes the position of seeking the copyright owner’s consent before they copy.
Competition is heating up this year between Google, the world’s dominant provider of Web search services, and software giant Microsoft, which recently entered the Web search market.
At the same time, Google has recently expanded into the business software market with a set of Web-based subscription services it sees as a major revenue generator which could chip away at Microsoft’s 15-year dominance of computer software.
Rubin invokes criticism that Google has faced since its acquisition late last year of YouTube, which has come under fire from several major media companies for allowing widespread copyright infringement of professionally produced video.
“In essence, Google is saying to you and to other copyright owners: ‘Trust us - you’re protected. We’ll keep the digital copies secure, we’ll only show snippets, we won’t harm you, we’ll promote you,’” Rubin argues in his speech.
“But Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best,” he said.
David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president for corporate development and its chief legal officer, said in response that Google works with more than 10,000 publishing partners to make books searchable online and has recently added the BBC and NBA basketball league as YouTube video partners.
“We do this by complying with international copyright laws, and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers and producers of content.”
Rubin cites anecdotal media reports that a handful of Google sales people were caught encouraging advertisers to capitalize on the demand for pirated software on the Web.
Rubin sides with publishers in criticizing Google’s ambitious plan to scan millions of published works in the world’s great libraries and make them available to consumers via its Google Book Search system. He said by scanning copies of published works without first seeking copyright holders’ permission, Google opens the door to massive infringement.
The attorney also says Google’s defense of ‘fair use’ is overly broad. “Concocting a novel “fair use” theory, Google bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books,” Rubin argues.
Drummond replied: “The goal of search engines, and of products like Google Book Search and YouTube, is to help users find information from content producers of every size.”
The publishers’ lawsuit against Google, filed in October 2005 in the U.S. District for the Southern District of New York, remains in the discovery process with no trial date set.
Microsoft’s move bears parallels to an attack five years ago by the Redmond, Washington-based company on so-called “open source” software, which has emerged over the past decade as the biggest alternative to Microsoft’s Windows software franchise.
Microsoft argued then that open source software jeopardized property rights and threatened to undermine the software industry as it argued in favor of “shared source” software that reinforced intellectual property rights.
Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco