James Governor's Monkchips

On Google, Viacom and The Wild West (guns and snakes)

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Hamza, a “civilian” who works in the office here, just asked me about the Viacom Google case. In case you aren’t following the news Viacom is suing Google for $1bn for copyright infringement. My take on it is that Viacom expects Google to settle out of court. But is Google really prepared to make ongoing billion dollar payoffs a cost of doing business, as Microsoft has in its settlements with anti-trust plaintiffs? Is Google really going to say to the Short Rattle and the Long Rattle – go ahead, sue us? What would happen if Google just said

“OK, Viacom: henceforth your media will disappear on Google. Searches on Viacom or any of its media properties will turn up nothing.”

Would that be illegal or something? I wouldnt have thought so. Could someone sue Google for not being included in its search engine? I can’t see what grounds they would have. And would Viacom fold if Google did take this approach? In a heartbeat I should imagine. That’s the problem for Viacom – it needs Google more than Google needs Viacom. We all do. The image I gave to Hamza, which inspired the title of this piece, is that Viacom is like of like a guy with a shotgun aiming at a scorpion near his foot, wanting to shoot but worried he’ll blow his foot off. Hamza came up with the Wild West theme, which suits Google’s approach to copyright law pretty well, and so the scorpion became a rattlesnake.

photo courtesy of Don Van Dyke.


  1. That would be an interesting decision for Google – would you trust them after that? Would you think that you were getting objectively relevant (modulo google-bombs, etc) rankings, or something based on Eric Schmidt’s mood that morning?

    I think that would be a big opening for competitors….

  2. trust them after that? i dont trust google *before* that… šŸ™‚ this is the second comment on trust in 30 minutes. the last aksed whether i trusted feedburner. for me trust is not a binary object. there are degrees of trust, and even people i considered good friends have betrayed me, and vice-versa in unexpected ways. and friends i trust a lot more than web services. but you’re probably right if Google didn’t list MTV or spongebob square pants perhaps that would drive traffic to competitors.

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