NEW YORK (AFP) -Software giant Microsoft Tuesday launched a stinging attack on Google, accusing its Internet rival of riding roughshod over copyright in a rush to grab potentially lucrative content for free.
The attack by top Microsoft lawyer Tom Rubin came as the two corporate titans step up their competition in both the software and online content markets.
Google “appears to be trying wherever possible to skirt copyright law’s boundaries,” Rubin, Microsoft’s associate general counsel for intellectual property, wrote in a Financial Times opinion piece.
Rubin reprised his attack in a speech in New York Tuesday to the Association of American Publishers.
Ahead of the speech, Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said the company did obey copyright laws, “and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers and producers of content.”
He said that in publishing, Google has more than 10,000 partners and its newly acquired video-sharing website YouTube has recently tied up with the British Broadcasting Corp. and the National Basketball Association.
But Rubin wrote that Google was guilty of a “unilateralist approach” by scanning books “by the truckload” without the permission of writers or publishers.
Microsoft, in contrast, was working “to collaborate with copyright holders in developing technologies.”
In 2005 Google launched a controversial project to digitalize millions of books on the shelves of libraries around the world.
“This project may well bring significant commercial advantage to Google,” Rubin said. “By contrast, those who own the copyrights in these works would gain little or nothing from Google’s plan.”
The Microsoft lawyer noted that Google faces a copyright minefield following its acquisition of YouTube.
And he dismissed the Internet company’s justification of its book scanning as “fair use” under US copyright law, calling it a “novel” interpretation that would stretch to countries where the fair use concept is not even recognized.
Agence France-Presse has sued Google in both France and the United States, alleging the Internet search engine includes the agency’s headlines, news summaries and photographs without permission on its “Google News” portal.
Last month, a court in Belgium found against Google in a similar copyright case brought by Belgian newspapers.
The ruling, which Google is appealing, was closely followed by the global media industry as a potential precedent over the use of copyright by digital media.
Google won support from the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which argued that Microsoft had given an “unfortunate mischaracterization” of copyright law that was outdated in the digital age.
Both Google and Microsoft are members of the CCIA.
“Microsoft would do well to consider that its own business depends on fair use before brushing aside that important doctrine,” CCIA president Ed Black said.
He argued that Microsoft’s software programmers were covered by this legal protection “when reverse-engineering competitors’ products.”
Meanwhile in a direct challenge to the company co-founded by Bill Gates, Google is now selling an online suite of business software that is available to companies for a 50-dollar annual fee.
And Google has stepped up free offerings like its Gmail service in a riposte to Microsoft’s popular Hotmail.
Info-Tech analyst Carmi Levy said that in any case, both companies were guilty in the copyright spat.
“Today, it’s Microsoft accusing Google and tomorrow it will be vice versa. And in the meantime, copyright holders lose,” he said.