Cents and CensorbilityPosted: January 23, 2012
Google recently forfeited a half billion dollars generated by counterfeit drugs sales after being being held responsible by the United States Department of Justice. Google stock then quickly dropped 22 percent from $627 to $490 per share. Is it possible that investors may lose some confidence that Google is able to generate the same profits legally? After all, their business model replies upon the presumption that nothing online has value until it is found on Google and then monetized by their ads. This is a clear conflict of interest between the gathering of ‘free’ information and advertising around that same content. No wonder they oppose a bill that would limit the illegal distribution of copyrighted works online.
The other day I read a post on Facebook from a friend who said that the real elephant in the room isn’t censorship. It is that the average person has been stealing music, movies and software for years and nobody wants the free buffet to end. The concept that all ‘knowledge should be free’ is absurd. While it is noble that Wikipedia remains ad-free, its founder Jimmy Wales pleads for donations totaling $16 million annually. The world needs to get reacquainted with the concept that we all win when everyone is compensated for their hard work and creativity.
Google already censors sites they deem objectionable for content such as pornography, racism and political protests. They even blocked The Pirate Bay in 2009 and then backpedaled after some criticism. Their problem with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not whether content on the web is blocked, it is over who does it: them or our democratically elected officials.
Last week Google distributed a Goebbels-worthy propaganda cartoon that gathered four million signatures protesting SOPA in one day. I would be hard pressed to believe that many of those folks actually read the bill before falling in suit. This did not demonstrate the power of the Internet, but that of one organization. Shortly thereafter, Barack Obama made a public announcement against the bill. This is contrary to the president’s previous commitment to remain neutral due to the fact that his two largest supporters, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, are diametrically opposed on this issue. I don’t think I need to be a psychic detective to predict the direction of his fundraising strategy for the 2012 election. Maybe the argument should not be about limiting the power of our government or even that of one massive corporation. Perhaps we should focus on stopping them from becoming one and the same.
Now I’m going to finish my coffee…