Launch and Iterate: Google’s Permissionless Innovation.

Every once in a while Google will accidentally reveal their true  nature through some cute slogan or catchphrase.

There is of course their famous corporate slogan  “Don’t be evil”.

As noted previously, we at The Trichordist believe that  “Don’t be evil” is not their corporate slogan but secretly their  corporate reminder.  Eric Schmidt has this written on the back of his hand in black marker.

Then there is their Net Neutrality campaign slogan they farmed out to one of their astro-turf organizations:  “We are the web.”   Yes Google we are quite aware that you think that “you are the web”. That you believe you own the web and all of our personal data.  Sergey Brin recently became apoplexic when discussing the fact that companies like Facebook and Apple have “closed” ecosystems that do not allow Google to scrape all of their data.    “How dare they? We Are the Web!”

Like Germans Google is mostly unintentionally funny.   Last week’s howler came in hearings on Capitol Hill. Google’s Internet Evangelist  Vint Cerf let this slip out:

“Such proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the ‘permissionless innovation’ that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth, to say nothing of trampling human rights,” said Vint Cerf.”

Now I understand that Vint Cerf was talking about some specific  proposals  from authoritarian governments that would  really truly be a threat to free access to the internet.  For once I agree with a Google spokesperson. But what caused me to guffaw was the phrase “permissionless innovation”.   It slipped out so smoothly and seemed so well-worn it was as if  Google’s collective Id  was speaking directly to us all.

It  seems particularly significant when you combine that with Van Lohman’s ( Google Senior Copyright Counsel)  cheerful admission of  Google’s “Launch and Iterate” copyright contempt strategy.  As reported in the Huffington Post:

Fred von Lohmann, senior copyright counsel at Google, reflected on how copyright has been an issue since the earliest search engines. Asked how to address the various obstacles of digital platforms, he cheerfully sloganeered “As we say at Google ‘launch and iterate,’ ” by which he meant the best approach for digital media companies, since the waters of copyright will remain murky for some time, is simply to launch content, learn from the inevitable public and legal response and then improve. The “launch and iterate” mentality allows for experiments in freedom of expression as well as public participation.

This same wonderful “experiment” also allows google to make plenty of money by exploiting artists without compensation.  But I digress.

From the Google Permissionless Innovation Department:

Google Books:  Don’t ask the authors if we can digitize their books, let’s just  monetize search within those books?

YouTube:  Let’s just put all this video content on the web and we’ll deal with the copyright owners later.

Shareholder rights:  Let’s screw virtually everyone but the founders by issuing new  non voting class c stock.  We’ll deal with the SEC and shareholder lawsuits later.

And of course you can apply “permissionless innovation” to many other rogue companies in the web space. After all according to the largely google funded copyleft  file-sharing sites are more innovative than sites like iTunes that seek permission.  That’s why consumers prefer The Pirate Bay to iTunes.  Not because they get stuff for free but because  The Pirate Bay is a pioneer in “permissionless innovation”.

I suppose the ultimate in “permissionless innovation” are the human trafficking sites.  No wonder Google apparently  refuses to restrict the flow of advertising dollars to these sites.  They are fellow “permissionless innovators”.

All sarcasm aside.  This is the problem with Google. It has never grown up.  There is something juvenile and narcissistic about it’s corporate culture. It’s slogan should be “you are not the boss of me”.  They have perverted the concept of internet freedom to mean don’t tell Google what to do ever.  Think I’m exaggerating?

” If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great.” —Sergey Brin quoted in The Guardian UK. 

Permissionless Innovation.  We love this phrase.  Do you mind if we Artists For An Ethical Internet keep it?

About Dr. David C Lowery

Platinum selling singer songwriter for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; platinum selling producer; founder of pitch-a-tent records; founder Sound of Music Studios; platinum selling music publisher; angel investor; digital skeptic; college lecturer and founder of the University of Georgia Terry College Artists' Rights Symposium.

2 thoughts on “Launch and Iterate: Google’s Permissionless Innovation.

  1. Pingback: Grab the Coffee – Random Reader News & Links

  2. The old phrase” Absolute power corrupts absolutely” comes to mind. The sense of entitlement Google seems to have is sadly, completely predictable . Thanks for the articles – tho as a musician they do tend to make my blood boil.

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