At the risk of overusing the “M” word (hint: it rhymes with “boron”), I feel compelled to take note of a recent column from Charles Cooper, who apparently is the executive editor of Cnet News. All I can say is that if he’s in charge of the Cnet News operation, then God help us all. Although he doesn’t mention Andrew Keen, Charles is definitely of the same mind as the “social critic” who believes Web 2.0 is ruining society as we know it (more about that here).
Mr. Cooper’s piece of “analysis” is entitled “Web 2.0 as a metaphor for ‘rip-off’,” which should give you a pretty good clue as to where he’s going. He refers to “the Web 2.0 assumption that it’s perfectly all right to profit from another company’s content without permission and without payment,” and says that it’s a good thing European courts (such as the one in Belgium that has blocked Google News) are standing up for the cause of truth and justice.
As Mike Masnick at Techdirt has pointed out, this is a load of bollocks. Cooper even trots out the old saw about how Napster and YouTube “flourished because of theft,” and how it’s just the same as walking into a store and walking out with an armload of books or CDs without paying. Memo to Charles: copyright infringement is not theft. Period. Look it up. The Supreme Court said so.
Cooper links to the U.S. Copyright Code, but obviously hasn’t thought about how it applies to Google News, or Google Print or any of the other things he lumps in with Napster. Fair use principles allow the use of snippets of text provided they are not for commercial use, and one consideration is how such use affects the market for the published work. So what if Google’s indexing actually makes a work more valuable, as appears to be the case? Does that still count as theft and immoral activity Charles?
What a maroon.