didn't I join the so-called netizen revolution and sign the petition to
Congress voicing displeasure at legislation to curb the Internet, as
requested by the announcement on my Google page? After all, 4.5 million
I am in favor of free speech on the Internet and everywhere, as
guaranteed by the Constitution. I don't support the legislation either.
But it seemed a little ironic and a conflict of interest for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to come out in favor of blocking antipiracy legislation. It's a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Somebody has to tell Google it is the most scurrilous of all the pirates.
As a smart investor, I have long admired the way the company does business. It has a two-word business plan: Steal everything.
By paying nothing for content and then reselling it at a higher price
through advertising, the company has been very profitable.
It is no wonder Google's stock price has sometimes reached $700. What
would its financial condition be if Google had to pay for everything it
now steals -- basically all the known information on earth and other
unknown universes? The stock might be selling for, what, 15 cents?
Sergei Brin and Larry Page, who came up with this marvelous business
plan in 1998, are the eighth wonders of the natural world. Maybe the
seventh. But as a victim of the piracy, I am not as ebullient about
their freedom to help themselves to my work. Hey, Google, you're
stealing the fruits of my half-century of labor. You're even continuing
this practice while I am sitting here penning this protest.
Of course, Google isn't the only perpetrator of these acts of larceny
against the creative communities. The Internet itself has become a
slave labor camp for uncounted legions of blog writers who violate the
natural order of things. As Samuel Johnson wrote in 1756, “No man but a
blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
Writing is a painful, lonely business. It's not as much fun as it
seems to nonwriters, and writers should receive compensation. I don't
mean to cue the hearts and flowers music here, but as I calculate the
amount of compensatory damages over the years in my case, we are not
talking about petty larceny by Google.
So here I sit in the same lifeboat uncomfortably with the fat cats like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA), and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX),
seemingly rowing against the rising Internet wave and against the
sleazy, reprehensible foreign pirates stealing movies, music, and other
products. And I know I will be roundly condemned for not appreciating
the dangers of censorship the legislation will cause. (See Piracy & Profit: The Other Side of the Coin.)
On the other hand, I believe thieves should be punished. Crime should not pay so well.
We have to start somewhere in rectifying the crimes of the past. My
compromise position is forcing Google to address its thefts from
writers, authors, and columnists; make restitution befitting the crimes;
sign a cease-and-desist order; and end its policy of paying zilch while
Innovative geniuses like “the Google Guys,” as Sergei and Larry like
to call themselves, will think of another way to make an honest dollar.