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Tom Rubin on copyright and search

tom rubin
“Policymakers understand little of what’s going on in online business, meanwhile, we’re still searching for a healthy symbiosis between media and tech firms, upon whom we’re dependent for both our audience traffic and monetisation.”

The clear message from Microsoft’s Chief Counsel, Tom Rubin, speaking at AOP’s forum on copyright, was that business models require quality – witness Google’s attempts to monetise user-generated content on YouTube, for instance. It’s a different story for another of the search firm’s properties, however, which relies entirely on branded publishers’ content for driving its traffic:

“Google’s Vice President of Search revealed this summer that Google News, a product that was put together in a weekend and that is run by automated search algorithms, generates $100 million in revenue for its business.” The service demonstrates once again the value of quality, branded content, only in this case, “the $100 million is a bonanza enjoyed by Google, not the creators”, said Rubin.

A Fiat engine in a Ferrari

The time is right to stand up for publishing and defend its vital role in a democratic society, especially with increasing levels of inaccurate information being disseminated on the web, said Rubin. Publishers and editors must be able to maintain appropriate control of their own content and the experience of their readers, and not cede those to search engines or aggregators. He continued:

ACAP can develop into an enabler of content flow like Creative Commons and not become an inhibitor like some failed experiments with digital rights management, it has the potential to be an important element of more vibrant business models for publishers in the future. Using the 15 year-old robots.txt protocol to regulate websites is like trying to “fit a Fiat engine in a Ferrari”.

What publishers need is more competition, not less, both Rubin and News International’s Director of Editorial Services, Dominic Young agreed, if they are to develop viable new business models and creative new forms of content while maintaining their independent voices.

Luddite resistance or passive acquiescence?

Young took us back to the invention of the printing press, when printers controlled all profits, and authors went largely unrewarded for their work. By Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt’s own admission, the web at times seems like a “cesspool”, and if, as Schmidt suggests, trusted brands are to come to the rescue, said Young, new tools are required, such as ACAP, which is “extendable, scaleable and non-dictatorial”.

Rubin concluded: “Quality content is of great value and it is time to reclaim what is yours. The stakes here are high. Remember that, in a very real sense, we are all in this together as stewards of our cultural future. Let’s instead work together to build a model that works for newspapers and technology alike – and that sustains and enriches the free and vibrant media that our free societies require.”

Also speaking at the event, Iain Stansfield, Partner at Olswang explained the commercial aspects of copyright, while Andrew Murray, Reader in Law at the London School of Economics gave his views about Creative Commons, and ‘encouraging creativity in the UGC age’ – both of their presentations are available for members to download.

Transcript of Tom Rubin’s speech

Press Coverage

International Herald Tribune

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