Just a couple of days ago, I wrote that in the latest Wikileaks email dump there showed a very cozy relationship between Google's Eric Schmidt and Team Hillary Clinton, which should come as no surprise to anyone. Google has been a massive lobby for while, and former execs have been ensconced in the White House and vice versa ever since the beginning of the Obama administration.
It's no surprise to the cynics, watchmen and content creators among us that Google is now shaping government law. How brazenly they are doing so however, is as disturbing as how much they want to regressively shape copyright law.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal wrote a critical opinion piece over recent developments in the U.S. Copyright Office, courtesy of Google that begins thusly: "Most Americans think of Google as a search engine doing unalloyed social good, but the company also wants to make money and wield political influence along the way. So you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to notice that an abrupt change of leadership at the U.S. Copyright Office is good news for Google, which aims to pay less for profiting from the property of others."
At the heart of this story is the callous removal of Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, and subsequent attempt to reassign her, thanks to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Pallante resigned rather than be relegated to an "advisory post for “digital strategy” she never sought, a job that included expanding the library gift shop." Her resignation prompted The House Judiciary Committee to put out a bipartisan statement calling Ms. Pallante’s departure a “tremendous loss.”
But it's not just the House Judiciary Committee who has expressed their disconcertion.
This pure political maneuver has caused outrage among the creator industry as well. Musicians Action, a democratic grass roots organization wrote a harsh indictment of the the move by Carla Hayden. In part it reads:
We at Musicians Action are very concerned about the recent removal of Maria Pallante from the position of Register of Copyrights.
Not only is such “reassignment” unprecedented in U.S. history but the timing is particularly alarming. It happened right after Maria Pallante opposed Google’s corporate agenda that would sweep intellectual property and creators’ rights under the rug. In the recent months, she questioned the legitimacy of the notorious “100 percent licensing,” the Google-inspired rule that defied both common sense and human decency, and sent waves of disbelief and outrage through the entire community of working music creators. She also opposed the “Unlock the Box” proposal from the FCC that was crafted to benefit Google.
If her removal is not special interest interference in governance at the highest level, then we don’t know what is. As Americans, we are very alarmed by this development.
It is also noteworthy that the removal of a highly skilled and honorable professional such as Maria Pallante happened at the time when Congress is reviewing current copyright law and considering changes. We are in a critical time period. If our great nation is to continue producing the kind of culture that the entire world admires, it is essential that intellectual property is NOT treated lightly. While tech giants of the Silicon Valley might gain disproportionate advantage if content creators are silenced, America and Americans won’t.
During her five year tenure, Pallante had been sympathetic to creators' rights. Billboard's Robert Levine reported that "during her tenure, Pallante advocated moving the Copyright Office into the executive branch of government, which would make the register of copyrights a presidential appointee," which would have essentially removed all influence from Google.
It's no wonder they moved in to prevent that. The struggle between Big Tech and content creator is ongoing, whether it comes from musicians creators of TV shows authors and more. What better way to put an end to it then to change the law in their favor?
In 2013, Jullian Assange wrote a review of "The New Digital Age," a book written by Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a former advisor to, surprise, Hillary Clinton, and head of Google Ideas, now renamed Jigsaw. Assange describes it not as a book per se but a blueprint.
The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book.
Those are accolades from Henry Kissinger, an alleged war criminal, and retired General Hayden who also directed the N.S.A. It makes sense for the latter. Google tracks what Americans are doing. So does the N.S.A.
Assange maintains "Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture — a decent, humane and playful culture — has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency," and that "....without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces — forever."
To ask whether it is a future we want to have is pointless. It's already here. Today your copyright. Tomorrow the patent office. The Wall Street Journal piece is right to call the installation of Carla Hayden a coup for that is exactly what has happened. If the content creators are David in the face of google's Goliath, what stone will they use to slay the behemoth? Google's ability to delist a website is as totalitarian as Stalin's censorship of images in Soviet Russia. Protest songs will get pre-roll ads and covered with astroturfed comments. Let's not even get started on shadow banning.
Hopefully someone will step in to undo this mess. In the meantime we'll keep speaking up to remind people that in addition to making money off of human trafficking, avoiding paying millions upon millions in taxes in multiple countries, spying on students via Chromebook despite a public pledge not to track students, joining Trojan Horse organizations made to look like they are pro-artists, while doing exactly the opposite, this company is morally bankrupt and out for its own interests at the expense of millions of others who have lost their ability to make a living, let alone speak out effectively.
Evil is too nice a word to describe Google.