As a content creator my feelings about Google are mixed. Philosophically, I believe in the openness of information and non-restrictive copyrights that let the producer profit from his or her good work in the present but benefit everyone later on. Last-Century revisions ruin the latter ethic. Life plus 70 years is a ridiculously long copyright that rapes the very concept of public domain.
Google’s business model enables free spread of information, which supports my other ethic. But there’s rot at the core—the free-content economy that search demands. As I explain in my new ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, “the search giant profits from your good work, reducing its value in the process”. Google produces no content, while its whole business model is about profiting from others’ content.
Google is the master of free, around which it makes billions through keywords, advertising, and other services related to search. Google search is the means by which most people access Internet content, for free. Free access, supported by SEO (search engine obsession)-driven aggregated digital content, creates perceptions of value—what the content is worth. Too often, nothing is the value. But even that search-engine found content comes from somewhere. Somebody pays to produces it.
The big G doesn’t contribute anything to the work of creatives. Not a minute of effort or a dime of financing. Yet Google wants to take our content, devalue it, and make it available for criminals to pirate for profit. Convicted felons like Kim Dotcom generate millions of dollars in illegal revenue off our stolen creative work. People access Kim through Google.
Let me add news aggregators to the list of thieves that Google search enables. But the perception is the do-gooder and champion of information access. Sutter stings:
It’s so absurd that Google is still presenting itself as the lovable geek who’s the friend of the young everyman. Don’t kid yourself, kids: Google is the establishment. It is a multibillion-dollar information portal that makes dough off of every click on its page and every data byte it streams.
Do you really think Google gives a shit about free speech or your inalienable right to access unfettered content? Nope. You’re just another revenue resource Google can access to create more traffic and more data streams. Unfortunately, those streams are now pristine, digital ones of our work, which all flow into a huge watershed of semi-dirty cash. If you want to know more about how this works, just Google the word ‘parasite’.
I use “leech” in my book, but “parasite” is descriptive, too.
Photo Credit: Jon Russell