Mullets, Platform Shoes, Mack Daddies and Public Knowledge

Written by Chris Castle

“[W]hen it comes to the internet, there’s always someone in the middle, especially when it comes to handling the money.” Wired Magazine

Call me cynical, but I always keep an eye on Friday afternoon press releases–Friday afternoons are the great graveyard of bad news.

Google announced on August 10 (Friday) that they are doing something I understand they have been doing increasingly over the last few months: Pushing sites down in search results if Google gets a lot of takedown notices for those sites.  (This is a version of what Google promised to content licensors for Google Video–and of course no one believed them like you don’t believe a street drunk that they’re really going to buy food with your $5.)

Remember–Google has announced in its rather untransparent Transparency Report that it gets millions–millions–of takedown notices annually.  A Google lobbyist told the House Judiciary Committee that Google had “processed” five million DMCA notices as of November 2011 and had “processed” over three million in 2010.  (As usual, Google doesn’t use a good verb like “received” instead of the ambiguous “processed”.)

That five million number seems to have taken a big jump, and I doubt it suddenly happened in the last 10 months.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “The company on Friday said it is now receiving more than a million copyright notices related to its search engine per week.”  (When exactly is “now”? Before or after Google’s testimony to the Congress?)

That is on track for over 50 million notices a year for search alone.

Understand this–it is highly likely that every notice Google received was for a link on a page for which Google served–or profited from–at least one ad.  It’s also likely that those ads were from brands to which Google had promised that it would not serve ads on sites with infringing content.  And guess what happens when Google charges an advertiser for serving an ad in violation of its contract with an advertiser.

It’s called a rebate.

If even half of the notices for which Google has received a DMCA notice–bearing in mind that is a US-based remedy–also have advertising served by Google, then Google may well be on the hook for rebates for millions upon millions of ads for years and years and years.  You would never have thought about this rebate exposure if you relied on Google’s investor disclosures.  If Google stockholders want to blame anyone, they should take a close look at whoever did the legal analysis on setting up the Google advertising platform in the first place.  (Hint: He now works at Spotify.)

I would suggest that what is happening is the beginning of something along the lines of the market solution I have advocated  for a long time–a site-based rating system based on the raw number of DMCA notices received.  This would be along the lines of the restaurant rating system that LA County has in place and would provide a useful feedback to the Congress as well as consumers.  Disclose the information to the market and see what happens.  (Of course, Google doesn’t count DMCA notices sent to YouTube or the Blogger cesspools–but that’s another story addressed by Searchengineland.)

Actually giving effect to such a system would be a step toward ending the advertising supported organized crime that is a large part of the “hybrid economy” on the Internet.  Assuming Google really does what they say they will, this announcement may signal the beginning of the end of this dark fashion.

Not surprisingly, we see this press release from Public Knowledge:

For Immediate Release August 10, 2012

Public Knoweldge [sic] Raises Concerns About Changes to Google Search Algorithm

The following statement may be attributed to John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney:

“It may make good business sense for Google to take extraordinary steps, far beyond what the law requires, to help the media companies it partners with.  That said, its plan to penalize sites that receive DMCA notices raises many questions.

“Sites may not know about, or have the ability to easily challenge, notices sent to Google.  And Google has set up a system that may be abused by bad faith actors who want to suppress their rivals and competitors.  Sites that host a lot of content, or are very popular, may receive a disproportionate number of notices (which are mere accusations of infringement) without being disproportionately infringing.  And user-generated content sites could be harmed by this change, even though the DMCA was structured to protect them.

“Google needs to make sure this change does not harm Internet users or the Internet ecosystem.”

This might be a faintly interesting comment except for one thing: it’s not.  According to Politico’s reporting:

Google said Friday it has received more than 4.3 million copyright removal requests in the past month — about 97 percent of which are valid. Many of the domains that are targets of the most requests are file-sharing and torrent sites. (emphasis mine)

It’s not surprising that Public Knowledge doesn’t get it.  Companies are increasingly aware that their valuable brands are being trashed by association with all manner of sketchy or outright illegal sites with advertising for illegal drugs, human trafficking, financial products and–yes, copyright infringement, but not just copyright infringement.  This at the same time as Google is trying to get into the mainstream entertainment business with Google Fiber and its various other products.

When fashion turns, it leaves all those people with mullets, platform shoes and superwide ties in the lurch.  A closet full of crap and a brain full of mush, weird hair and no dates.

It’s the economics, stupid.  Who in their right mind could imagine that the world could continue to look this way?  Who would really think that many, many artists and media companies have anything but public and private contempt of the first order for Google?  An ontological level of distrust?

And who would really think that the brands that also court relationships with top athletes, musicians, artists and actors would continue to get ripped off by having their advertising served on millions of unsavory sites.  And guess what–when a big brand picks up the phone, they don’t want to hear about how Google is trying to bust another union or wants every link on every page to be adjudicated an infringer before they take action while reposting disabled links in near real time in the cesspool regions of Blogger.  Google’s excuses have nothing to do with the brands.  If brands don’t want their ads on site X, then the ads won’t go on site X.  End of discussion.  And Internet users will be the better for it.  Unless they’re trying to buy a bride or score some oxy.

And I have to believe that Attorney Bergmayer knows this.  He surely can’t be that sheltered.

Time for a haircut and spring cleaning.

Google offers the Mack Daddy special.
(A version of this post previously appeared on the Music Tech Policy blog)

BMW’s Response to Ads for Its Brands on Pirate Sites

As they drive on–CUT TO:

 A PRETTY YOUNG WOMAN standing in the doorway of one of the Tudor houses. She is very pregnant. She knows instinctively who they are, and she dominates them in a genuinely proud female way. What I mean is, it’s her scene, and they’re suddenly embarrassed to be bothering her. 


       To see Mr. Sloan. 

                    MRS. SLOAN

       He’s out.

              (There is a pause.  She studies them–)

       You’re those two from the Post, aren’t you.

              (they nod)

       I’ll tell him.


              (as she’s about to step back inside)

       This must be a difficult time for the both of you.

                     MRS. SLOAN

       This is an honest house.

   From “All The President’s Men,” By William Goldman

Several artists and rights holders wrote to BMW after reading the Trichordist “Wall of Shame” post about BMW’s ads being served on a pirate site that was illegally distributing the “Drive” soundtrack.  (See “Wall of Shame: BMW Willing to ‘Drive’ Without License.”)  I also wrote to BMW and outlined the key points to them, being:

1.  Someone in their house is in on it.  It may not be a BMW employee, but it is someone in the chain.

2.  Artists are told by companies like Google to “follow the money” through the labyrinth of advertising exchanges, advertising networks and real time bidding in between the brand and the pirate site.  I pointed out to BMW that we don’t need to know anything more than where the money starts–which is with the brand–and where it stops–which is with the pirate.  What happens in between is of no consequence to anyone but the brand (BMW in this case) that is no doubt being routinely lied to, and possibly to law enforcement.

3.  Brands like BMW are in a unique position to both (a) stop the money and (b) demand a rebate from their ad agency or ad network.  But then we are always told that none of these ad networks (or ad exchanges) profit from piracy because their contracts say they don’t.  Ah, well, in that case they must be innocent, right?  The demanding-the-rebate step is important because if they don’t do that, then the brand’s stockholders are being ripped off.  (Remember the stockholders?  They’re the ones who own the place.)

4.  What I suspect that artists really want is for the brands to step up to their responsibilities, especially the public companies, denounce these practices and stop funding the pirates.  This isn’t about following the money, it’s about stopping the money.  Following the money is a distraction, stopping the money is effective.

BMW was very responsive to my inquiry regarding the “Drive” campaign.  The company has informed me that due to readers of the Trichordist bringing the specific incident to their attention, they have not only stopped the ads from being served on the particular site in question but the incident triggered a complete audit of BMW’s digital buying practices.  This includes a review of their current agreements with all of their partner ad networks, as well as a review of their current verification provider (Double Verify in this case).  BMW are taking this seriously and seem to take a dim view of being used to undermine intellectual property rights.  Hopefully they will conduct their review with a critical eye for the obfuscation that we all believe is rampant.

So why is BMW’s response an important event?

Assuming they actually do what they say they will do–and I am willing to take them at their word until I have a reason to think otherwise–a very important brand in an nominally unrelated industry has recognized that they are being manipulated by a legion of thieves.  They didn’t try to blame the other guy, BMW took responsibility for their brand.

The government will do what it’s going to do to prosecute the criminals and the money launderers that infest online advertising.   That must be done, it is important work, but it will take time because although the wheels of justice do turn, they turn slowly.

This incident illustrates a few things we need to happen.

First of all, we need an immediate reaction from brands that are getting ripped off to make it stop.  Not just window dressing but actually stop.  I can’t say enough good things about BMW’s responsible reaction.  I hope others follow suit proactively.

The second thing we need to make clear is that if you work at an ad network, particularly a successful ad network, it is highly likely that you are associating yourself with bad guys.  I seriously doubt that any ad network or ad exchange is clean.  It is an occupation that is at best suspect and at worst a haven for money laundering.  It is also very likely that your paycheck includes profit from human misery from copyright infringement to mail order brides.

Finally, until such time as brands like BMW require third party certification and monitoring of sites where their ads appear in real or near real time, all ad networks and exchanges are suspect.

Why?  Because the ad inventory from illegal sites is just too vast for it not to affect everyone in the business.

So at least today, BMW has said it chooses to stand with the artists and not with the scumbags.  And that’s good for the artists.

Thanks to the artists and rights holders who wrote to BMW and to the Trichordist.  And special thanks to BMW for their quick reaction.  It’s a team effort, let’s keep it up.

Ultimately, the brands have to decide if they live in an honest house.

UPDATE: Artists: Be The Change, Submit Comments! Deadline EXTENDED to August 10th

As The Trichordist noted in the July 16th post, the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel has issued a call to the public to file comments with her office about the US intellectual property laws.  If you care about artist rights, this is a good time to tell Victoria Espinel what you think.  You can comment on anything, but she is probably looking for specific comments about how good a job you think the US government is doing in enforcing our IP laws and protecting artist rights and any ideas you have about how the government could be doing more.

You should be aware that opponents of artist rights will seize upon this kind of public comment period to flood Ms. Espinel’s office with copyleft and radical anti-artist commentary.  You can bet that they will do it and they will do it from all over the world.  This is so that they can point to the quantity of their comments and try to wrap themselves in some kind of mandate in dealing with the IPEC.  Or more likely, trying to remove that job from the Federal government altogether–I’m sure that is their true goal as Ms. Espinel has done more to protect artist rights by enforcing the laws than anyone in the last 20 years.  And we can’t have that.

Ms. Espinel’s job is to coordinate the resources of the federal law enforcement establishment on enforcing the laws of the United States against those who would steal our intellectual property at all levels–from your song to the avionics for spacecraft.  This is a very hard job that has been allocated very few direct resources and we are lucky to have her.

When Ms. Espinel first announced the comment period it was to end on July 25 (today).  The deadline has now been extended to August 10.

You don’t need to write a letter unless you really want to.  There is a webform for your comments available at this direct link for your comments:!submitComment;D=OMB-2012-0004-0002

Don’t be shy.  Ms. Espinel wants to know what you think.

Here are quotes from the Federal Register notice:

The Federal Government is starting the process of developing a new Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement. By committing to common goals, the U.S. Government will more effectively and efficiently combat intellectual property infringement. In this request for comments, the U.S. Government, through the Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (“IPEC”), invites public input and participation in shaping the Administration’s intellectual property enforcement strategy.

The Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator was established within the Executive Office of the President pursuant to the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, Public Law 110-403 (Oct. 13, 2008) (the “PRO IP Act”). Pursuant to the PRO IP Act, IPEC is charged with developing the Administration’s Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement for submission to Congress every three years. In carrying out this mandate, IPEC chairs an interagency intellectual property enforcement advisory committee comprised of Federal departmental and agency heads whose respective departments and agencies are involved in intellectual property enforcement.

Recording Tips for the Loudness Wars: An Interview with Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering

[Chris Castle interviews Bob Ludwig, the legendary mastering engineer.]


Mastering is the last and probably the least understood step in the audio recording process.

Mastering engineer Bob Ludwig is one of the true living legends of the music business. In addition to being a Grammy winning engineer, he has received many TEC Awards for excellence and was the first winner of the Les Paul Award from the Mix Foundation for setting the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology.

Bob is a classical musician by training, having obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Eastman School of Music. Inspired by Phil Ramone, Bob ended up working with Phil at the legendary A&R Recording Studios in New York. After a few years at A&R Recording, Bob moved to Sterling Sound and then to Masterdisk as Chief Engineer. In 1993, Bob and his wife Gail built Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine, a state-of-the-art record-mastering facility where he still masters records by top artists.

Chris Castle: Given how many people listen to music on portable digital players, do you find that producers are mixing for earbuds? Is it common to find an “iPod mix” that you master separately?

Bob Ludwig: No it isn’t. Dr. Floyd Toole (of Harman International, makers of JBL speakers) showed that averaging all the different consumer speakers (some bright, some with too much bass or midrange etc.) one ends up with a very flat curve which is empirical proof that mastering with an extremely accurate and flat playback system yields a product that sounds correct on more systems. Like speakers, earbuds run the gamut from the old stock Apple earbuds that sounded tinny and lacking warmth to top-of-the-line Shure earbuds that are extremely accurate, to “hip-hop” earbuds that are overly bass heavy. One must master to sound as good as possible on all systems.

Almost all pop mixes are mixed with the bass and kick drum panned to the center which is proper as many people will be listening on boom boxes which have limited power and having a powerful center channel bass available to both speakers is ideal. Very early recordings of the Rolling Stones and The Beatles (to name two groups) were totally intended for mono and were recorded on 2-channel or 3-channel tape decks solely for creating a mono-only mix. When stereo became popular these early multi-track tapes were re-purposed for stereo and the bass and kick drum were typically locked into either the right or left channel.

With earbuds and headphones this is very unnatural sounding and sometimes it is decided to filter the low bass into the center by mono-ing the signal somewhat. This sounds much better. This is definitely a decision based on current widespread use of earbuds, and it remains an important philosophical question when doing re-issues of old recordings with this problem.

Chris Castle: Can you explain how the “loudness” of a mix becomes a factor in mastering? Can you explain compression and how it affects you at the mastering stage?

Bob Ludwig: Compression uses a piece of hardware or software plug in which either enhances or most often limits the dynamic range of the music being fed into it. Compression is crucial to pop music. Live pop music is almost always performed at hearing damaging levels, way above the 85dBspl OSHA threshold for start of possible hearing loss. In order for this immense power to be even somewhat realistically reproduced on consumer systems the pop sound pipeline must be compressed so that musically the performance has the extra energy that the live performance had. For pop music, this translates as a very musical thing.  (“The Loudness Wars” video illustrates.)

This problem starts from the fact that human beings, when hearing two examples of the exact same musical program but with one turned up only +0.5 or 1dB, almost all listeners who don’t know exactly what they are hearing choose the louder one as “sounding best.” Fair enough.

So through the years, the louder example is eclipsed by a yet louder example winning the hearts and minds of the artist, the engineer and the A&R person. At some point, the music is so loud and unnaturally compressed that the aural assault on the ear, while very impressively loud, has sucked the life out of the music and makes the listener subconsciously not want to hear the music again.

At an Audio Engineering Society workshop I was recently in about loudness, Susan Rogers from Berklee College talked about the hair cells in our ears that receive music and she pointed out that loud compressed music does not “change” as much as dynamic music and notes that “we habituate to a stimulus if it stops changing. Change ‘wakes up’ certain cells that have stopped firing. This is cognitively efficient and therefore automatic.” In other words, there are very physical reasons why too much compression turns off our music receptors. Every playback system ever manufactured comes with a playback level control. If one is listening to an album, one should be able to turn that control anywhere you want and the absolute level on the CD should not make a difference. Another place level on a CD does not make the difference one would think is on radio broadcast. It can be shown that in general, loud CDs sound worse and less powerful on commercial FM radio than a CD with a moderate level that lets the radio station compressors handle the loudness problem. Non-classical radio station compressors make soft things loud and loud things soft.

Two areas where producers get upset about not having enough level is the iTunes Shuffle, or even comparing songs on the iTunes software itself, and that moment at the radio station where the PD is going through the week’s new releases and deciding which two or three songs will be added to his playlist. Here, sometimes having a little extra level can make a lesser song seem a little more impressive, at least at first listen.

A great example of a contemporary recording that has full dynamic range is the Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy CD where Axl Rose wanted all the textures of the original mixes to come through and he got his wish! A good example of one of the loudest most distorted CDs is the Metallica Death Magnetic CD where apparently 10,000 fans signed a web petition to have the album remixed because they got to hear how good it sounded on “Guitar Hero” which did not have all the digital limiters the final CD mix had.

Chris Castle: I’m sure you don’t master with freeware, can you give an overview of the kind of technology you use?

Bob Ludwig: We have great state-of-the-art gear and we also have some classic gear like the 5 different sets of tape machine playback electronics we have to reproduce the client’s tape with the very best sounding playback for that particular recording.  It makes a big difference.

We have Esoteric Audio Research tube amps, Aria Class-A solid state electronics, ATR Services tube amps, souped-up stock Class-A electronics and Studer tape machine electronics…they all sound different.  We have all kinds of equalizers and compressors, but we often use the Manley Massive Passive Equalizer which is tubed as well as the George Massenburg solid state equalizer, My SPL (Sound Performance Laboratories) German console has 124-volt DC rails in the Class-A electronics making it probably some of the most advanced electronics known to man!

We run our entire studios off huge batteries so we create our own 60 Hz. AC, the power is as clean as you could imagine.  Using bridged Cello Mark II Performance Amplifiers which are capable of outputting 4,000 Watts of power into my 790 lb. Eggelston Works “Ivy,” one can put one’s ear right up to the tweeter and you can hardly hear a peep with no signal fed to the speaker.

Chris Castle: Is there a top 3 “don’ts” that you have to fix in mastering?

Bob Ludwig:

1. The most common big criticism I have is not paying enough attention to the vocal. The vocal is everything to the success of a song. Make it loud enough to be able to hear the lyrics. The problem is, if the vocal level is too high, all the energy of the track disappears, if it is too low, you can’t understand what is being said. If you want to be able to hear every word and you are mixing it, be sure to have a friend who does NOT know the words come in and tell you what is being sung. Once you know the lyrics, you can mix them very low and still understand them, but everyone else might miss some important words. It is hard, but crucial to get the right level.

Always cover yourself by doing one or two extra mixes with the vocal raised +0.5dB and another +1dB. Some languages need extra vocal level as more nuances of the language can easily get lost. Louder vocals are usually found on country music mixes, French and Japanese mixes.

2. Vocal sibilance not contained is a problem. As in item “1”, some producers will make the vocal as bright as musically possible in order to have it be intelligible yet tucked into the track. Sometimes the vocal is simply too sibilant. These days where most big projects are being cut for vinyl it is even more important to control sibilance as it creates high amplitude, high frequency grooves that are beyond the ability of all but the best cartridges to reproduce and one gets a “spitting” sound on the sibilance. Controlling sibilance in the mix is by far the best place to do it as the de-esser will only affect the voice while de-essing during mastering necessitates compromising the brightness of the entire track.

3. A mix with a bright vocal and a dull drum sound is really a problem. The all important snare takes up a lot of spectrum and trying to brighten it with eq will make the bright vocal even brighter and quickly become unacceptable. It is a real trap that can only be helped by mastering from the TV track with a separate vocal a cappella track, something that most often is not an option.

Visit the Gateway Mastering site for more information on Bob and his team.

[The Trichordist says: A version of this interview post originally appeared in MusicTechPolicy and in the Huffington Post.]

Musicians POV: Songwriters: How to find yourselves on pirate lyric sites and what to do about it

We’ve all heard about Bit Torrent sites like the Pirate Bay, Isohunt, Megavideos.  One kind of site we haven’t heard much about is lyric sites.  These are often large websites with heavy traffic that are text based and advertising supported.

How do you find these sites?  One good way is to search for yourself and your song title on Google.  Google will helpfully deliver you the top illegal lyric sites so you can move right along.  Or you could set up a Google alert for your songs and Google will deliver directly to you the information that they know about already.  Nice and neat package.

Let’s take for example.  This is an illegal site that has the lyrics from 1,000s of songs, allows users to create ringtones for “free” (or so they say, we haven’t clicked on those links because who knows what might happen), and is ad supported.

So search for your song in the search box and see if it comes back.  Even if you are not a rock star, you will probably be in the database if you have ever released your lyrics online (like on your own website for example).  When you find your songs, you will notice that your song lyric will be surrounded by advertising.  In the case of, it looks like Google has an exclusive on serving advertising to the site, because advertising for Google Play, Google’s music service that had a hard time launching because the music community believed that Google profits from piracy.

You’ll also see a variety of Google ads (hover over the ad and you will see a web address for the ad which will have the name “google” or “doubleclick” in the URL–Google owns Doublclick thanks to the antitrust authoritites).  There will also be ads for “AdChoices” which is also a Google adserving company.  These ads are generating revenue for the ad publisher (Lyrics007) and for Google.  Presumably also for the advertiser, such as McDonalds, Warped Tour and H2O Festival that we saw.

You can find out who is the registrant of the site by searching the WHOIS database at a registry, such as Network Solutions

The site is registered to HICHINA ZHICHENG TECHNOLOGY LTD.  In China.  But Lyrics007 is in the top 2500 websites in the US according to Alexa.

So what can you do about this?  Not much.  One thing you can do is take a screen capture of your lyrics and email it to us for the Wall of Shame and we will keep others abreast of what you are finding.  Make sure you get the ads included in the screen shot, but be careful what you click on.

We are particularly interested in screen captures of advertising by big brands (like McDonalds below).  Email them to us and we will post the best ones!

Like this:

Or this:


Nothing Says Freedom Like Getting Away With It: Google Tells Ari Emanuel to Change His Business

Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says “freedom” like getting away with it….
Long Long Time, written by Guy Forsyth

Ari Emanuel spoke at the D10 conference recently which tells you something right there.  He has a far greater tolerance for bull than we do.

It’s probably easier to catch the engrained bias toward piracy amongst the Silicon Valley cognoscenti and the journalists who protect them when you are watching it on playback than when you are on the stage, take this for an example.

The most interesting reaction came from Mr. Emanuel’s statement about Google that boils down to what we all know:  Google’s business is in large part built on illegal stuff, including piracy.  (See Google drugs nonprosecution agreement antitrust claims in the US, Europe and South Korea; human trafficking complaints; Wi-Spy scandal in the UK, Germany, US, France, South Korea; major litigation losses in the Google Books and YouTube litigation; attempts to destroy unions; stockholder lawsuits for mismanagement by the 10 votes per share insider group that spent $500,000,000 of company money to stay out of a drug prosecution, etc.)

Mr. Emanuel said that Google filters child pornography with no problem because they can and because it’s the right thing to do–so there are limits to even what Google is willing to profit from.

Mr. Emanuel says that a comparable solution for content from illegal sites is also the right thing to do.  Google fails miserably to do so, to their great profit.  Mr. Emanuel would prefer that they did not.

Google’s answer was the usual “catch me if you can” that we have heard from Google for years as they profit from piracy.  What Google wants the creative community to do is take time–a lot of time–away from making movies, television shows, writing books and songs and making music and chase Google to stop them before they infringe again.

This is essentially the same losing argument that Google made to Judge Denny Chin in the Google Books case last week to try to force authors and photographers to sue Google individually and work by work rather than through their associations.  Judge Chin got it immediately—it’s not that Google wants hundreds of thousands if not millions of claims by authors.  It’s that Google’s bet is that they will only be sued by a handful who can afford it.

It seems clear that this is the same strategy Google has used for years–Google thinks this is the best way to get away with it.

I agree with Judge Chin that Google must hope that few of the authors and photographers  will have the ability to catch Google stealing and sue them for it.  This is the point.  And the argument didn’t work with Judge Chin and it didn’t work with Mr. Emanuel, either.  Nor should it work with any fair minded person.

Which is why Mr. Emanuel suggests that Google do the right thing, as Apple does, as Microsoft does, and as a host of other tech companies do.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sergei Brin’s sister-in-law, Google’s Susan Wojcicki responded thusly to Mr. Emanuel’s charge that Google profits from piracy:

Google [Senior Vice President of Advertising] Susan Wojcicki said: “I think he was misinformed, very misinformed,” Wojcicki responded Thursday at the D10 conference. “We do not want to be building a business based on piracy.”

While child pornography is easily spotted, “When I see content, I don’t know if you own the copyright,” she said.

First of all, Mr. Emanuel was not misinformed at all.  As we have seen again and again in many different examples across its advertising business, Google intends to profit from anything that is not nailed down.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, senior Google executives aided and abetted the importation of controlled substances from Mexico, China and many other countries, drugs like human growth hormone, steroids and the abortion drug RU 486—and no one was misinformed about that, either:

[A whistleblower] fled to Mexico in 2006 and started an Internet pharmacy, selling steroids and human growth hormone to U.S. consumers through Google ads….”It was very obvious to Google that my website was not a licensed pharmacy,” [the whistleblower] wrote to the Journal. “Understanding this, Google provided me with a very generous credit line and allowed me to set my target advertising directly to American consumers.”

Posing as the fictitious Jason Corriente, an agent for advertisers with lots of money to spend, [the whistleblower worked with federal agents and] bypassed Google’s automated advertising system to reach flesh-and-blood ad executives. Federal agents created, designed to look “as if a Mexican drug lord had built a website to sell [human growth hormone] and steroids,” [the whistleblower] said in his account of the sting.

Google first rejected it, along with an anti-aging website called But the company’s ad executives worked with [the whistleblower] to find a way around Google rules….Federal agents…[created a] site selling the abortion pill RU-486, which in the U.S. can only be taken in a doctor’s office.

By the end of the operation in mid-2009, agents were buying Google ads for sites purportedly selling such prescription-only narcotics as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Agents also got Google’s sales office in China to approve a site selling Prozac and Valium to U.S. customers without a prescription.

As a tape recorder ran, [the whistleblower] walked Google executives through the illegal parts of the websites. He said he told ad executives that U.S. Customs had seized shipments, for example, and that one client wanted to be “the biggest steroid dealer in the United States.”

“Suffice to say this was not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own,” said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney. “This was corporate decision to engage in this conduct.”  [Mr. Neronha was quoted in a different Journal article saying that the decisions went up to Larry Page.]

Six private shareholder lawsuits have so far been filed against Google’s executives and board members, alleging they damaged the company by not taking earlier action against the illegal pharmacy ads.

Google has other potential legal exposure. Record companies and movie studios say Google willfully profits from illegal Internet piracy—an issue raised last week, when Congress dropped antipiracy legislation after opposition from Internet companies, including Google.

So you understand why Ms. Wojcicki and her brother in law would be very interested in diverting attention away from the many ways Google profits from piracy and other bad acts?   As Santa Clara Law School Professor Eric Goldman told the New York Times, “’How much of Google’s overall revenues are tied to product lines that are questionable?’ he said. ‘For investors, I think they just got a little bit of a jolt [after Google reserved $500,000,000 to pay its forfeiture in the drugs case] that maybe Google’s profits are due to things they can’t ultimately stand behind.’”  (Emphasis mine.)

If Google’s complicity in the drugs case went all the way to Larry Page as Mr. Neronha has stated, you have to wonder if Ms. Wojcicki herself—a senior Google advertising executive–was on those whistleblower tapes.  There’s currently a valiant shareholder lawsuit by a pension fund being heard in Delaware where these outsiders are trying to find out what Google’s insider team is up to–and remember that the insiders shares get 10 votes per share to the outsiders one vote per share–so the only way the outsiders can have a say in the corporation’s governance is to sue Google because the insiders can simply ignore the outsiders.

Exhibit A?  Google’s drug prosecution.  Google’s drug problem resulted in one of the largest forfeitures in US history–$500,000,000 of the stockholders’ money paid in a curious deal to keep executives from being indicted.  And for which Google is currently being sued by its stockholders in six separate cases.

So naturally, Ms. Wojcicki is motivated to divert attention away from Google’s addiction to piracy.


Ms. Wojcicki says that when Google sees content online they don’t know who owns the copyright.  Just like they didn’t know the drugs were illegal?

And the decision—the decision that a human makes—when they see a red flag is to let the drugs be sold or the copyright be duplicated, or the mail order brides to be sold.  Or provide a link to someone who is allowing it to be happen because it profits Google to so do.

Just like the drugs case, it is hard to believe that piracy on a global scale all happens without any human interaction by Google employees.

But this just doesn’t ring true.  Google has acknowledged receiving five million DMCA notices last year alone, and over three million the year before that.   Don’t you think that if someone tells you five million times a year that you are doing something wrong there might be some truth to it?

Imagine if a CD or DVD duplicator decided—decided—not to inquire as to whether someone who wanted to use their services had the right to do so.  They would certainly make a lot more money for a while.  But they would be headed straight to jail in the long run.  This is why duplicators require considerable proof before they allow their facilities to be used to create copies of what are obviously works of copyright.

So all Mr. Emanuel is asking is that Google do the right thing.  Show that they are a reliable business partner, show that they can be trusted with content.

According to Ms. Wojcicki, we are a long, long way from anyone at Google doing the right thing.  Because nothing says freedom like getting away with it.

So let’s all remember that.