Friday, September 4, 2009

Google Music? Bigger than Google Books?

What do you think would happen if I decided to make copies of every piece of music ever recorded and place it on the internet for people to sample and download?

Do you think I'd be allowed to do this?

Would authorities just say "that's okay, carry on"?

What would the recording companies have to say about it?

Do you think it would make any difference if I said that I was only going to allow people to listen to about 20 seconds of each track but, if they wanted to buy it I'd sell it to them for a price I felt was fair -- and send 60% of that money to the artists who wrote and performed the track?

Would that be fair or even legal?

Should those artists have to give their permission for me to do this or should I be allowed to do it anyway and only withdraw their music if they filed a law-suit against me?

And what about those artists whose work I'd already put online? should I be allowed to offer them some paltry amount (say $50) to make amends for the infringements to their intellectual property rights so far?

Well I think the answer to the above questions are not hard to work out.

Anyone who tried this would find themselves sued to oblivion and back, penniless and probably facing prison-time.

But, if you replace "music" with "books" and introduce Google as the company copying and offering these copyrighted works online you'd be looking at exactly the situation as it exists with Google Books.

Why should books be treated any different to music?

Why are Google effectively riding rough-shod over the rights of writers, authors and book publishers that they would not dare to do to recording artists and studios?

Take YouTube, another Google property for example...

When Warner Music threatened to sue them for carrying music tracks and videos without expressed permission, YouTube pulled all those videos and is now very active at policing the uploading of new potentially infringing content.

So why are they now saying "we're going to publish everyone's books online", pretty much without regard to the intellectual property-rights of those who wrote them?

Could it be because the recording industry is a lot better organised and has a lot more money in its war-chest than the publishing industry does?

Google have offered to sweeten the pot for writers by acting as a sales portal for their works and, as an author, I think their deal is pretty damned good. However, their "take it or leave it" approach to this does leave a sour taste in the mouth.

And of course Amazon, who possibly have the most to lose if Google starts selling e-versions of popular books, is outraged. They're bouncing off the walls, furious that Google's move may well ankle-tap their own e-Book initiatives in a way no other company ever could.

If Google gets away with this, I'm hoping that it will set a precedent that may tempt them into launching "Google Music" - where recording artists will finally have a useful and profitable way to sell their wares directly to the public in a way that offers great value to everyone.

Will it happen?

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