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Microsoft on Google

Tom Rubin, a lawyer for Microsoft, gave a speech yesterday before the Association of American Publishers that attacked Google for not “respecting” copyrights.  Larry Lessig disagrees with the merits of the analysis of Google’s business (Google Book Search, YouTube, allegedly selling keywords for pirated software terms).  I rather like Kevin Werbach’s deconstruction of Microsoft’s rhetoric:

Much of this is PR, trying to reposition Google as the “bad guys” and Microsoft as the “good guys.” But there’s also a deeper alignment going on between Microsoft and the major media companies. On the other side are not just the usual suspects from the tech community, but also the network operators such as phone companies. They don’t want to be held liable for copyright infringement on their networks, and they don’t like being forced to serve as agents of the content owners in rooting out infringement. What’s interesting is that the battle lines are entirely different around network neutrality. There, Google and Microsoft are on the same side, with the network operators in opposition.

That’s a difficult line to walk, because Microsoft is not-so-subtly accusing Google of being a parasite, not a creator — and Microsoft is the reverse.  From Tom Rubin’s talk:

So the question is: should business models that are built on the backs of others’ intellectual property choose a path that respects IP, or a path that devalues it? For Microsoft, a major copyright owner, patent owner and trademark owner, the choice is clear. But even if a company chooses not to create its own intellectual property – Google, after all, has not a single registration in the Copyright Office’s database – it cannot “opt out” of the law’s obligation to respect the rights of others.  

This from a company that was once accused of purchasing the rights to QDOS on the cheap and renaming the programt MS-DOS, while not telling the seller that IBM had already contracted with MS to supply it with an OS.  I’m just saying.