Eric Schmidt, the Chief Google Guy over at Google, seems like a very decent fellow, so there is a chance that he is saying something other than he seems, but his quote in an article on Google in the current Newsweek is a puzzler:
“When we started Google News, we forgot to put ads in it. It’s not deliberate. We actually forgot.”
To paraphrase Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya, “He keeps using that word. I do think it means what he thinks it means.”
I suppose it all really depends on what Eric means by the word “forgot”. If he means that Google planned to put ads in Google News and then forgot, nudge-nudge wink-wink, and, Ho-Ho, it never asked Google Legal for a view on whether putting ads on other companies’ copyrighted content would likely bring out publishers’ legal brigades, then I’m with him all the way. I forget things like that all the time too, like checking to make sure if it’s okay to play eighteen holes rather than nine on the odd Saturday morning golf game.
But if Eric means that Google planned to put in ads, and then didn’t because some engineer forgot to flip a switch, and then it has stayed off because, you know, precedent and all that, then I’m not really buying it. Adam Pennenberg had it right in Wired News last year:
The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that “fair use” doesn’t cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles.