Google, the colossus that bestrides the world of information, opposes legislation now before Congress that would give the shrinking and imperiled newspaper industry a chance to push back against Google’s rapacious hegemony. Last week, the technology giant took its opposition further by slamming a little tech upstart from Redmond that favors the bill.
Well, perhaps not an upstart. Microsoft is no minor player in the realm of information technology, but the company that once seemed so dominant has been surpassed in its reach by the likes of Google and Facebook, the two main targets of the legislation.
In a blog post, Google alleged that self-interest was driving Microsoft’s push for the proposal. Likely, Microsoft would benefit if the law reined in the power of such a significant rival in the search engine and online advertising market. Nevertheless, there is at least a bit of altruism involved since, unlike Google and Facebook, Microsoft has been doing the right thing by compensating content creators for use of their work.
Newspapers, in particular, have had their content unfairly expropriated by the lords of the internet, even as the advertising that once sustained the news business has been snatched away by the same online behemoths. Congressional action could help level the playing field by allowing newspaper publishers to band together to negotiate fair payment from the tech giants.
The geniuses at Google and Facebook may imagine themselves as champions of an open web of information, but, in fact, they are monopolists who seem to think they have a divine right to use other people’s work without paying fairly for it. They are helping destroy the free press that underpins our democracy, and the purveyors of serious journalism should be empowered to demand a better deal that will sustain and not drain their remaining resources.
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