Thursday, October 06, 2005
It seems that policymaking and regulatory activity in Washington, D.C. affect Google and our users more every day. It’s important to be involved - to participate in the policy process and contribute to the debates that inform it. So we’ve opened up a shop there. The first member of our Washington team is Alan Davidson, a veteran thinker and advocate for issues we care about.
Our mission in Washington boils down to this: Defend the Internet as a free and open platform for information, communication and innovation. OK, that sounds a little high and mighty, so let me break it down into something a bit wonkier with a sampling of the U.S. policy issues we’re working on:
Net neutrality. As voice, video, and data rapidly converge, Congress is rewriting U.S. telecommunications laws and deregulating broadband connectivity, which is largely a good thing. But in a country where most citizens have only one or two viable broadband options, there are real dangers for the Internet: Should network operators be able to block their customers from reaching competing websites and services (such as Internet voice calls and video-on-demand)? Should they be able to speed up their own sites and services, while degrading those offered by competitors? Should an innovator with a new online service or application be forced to get permission from each broadband cable and DSL provider before rolling it out? Or, if that’s not blunt enough for you, what’s better: [a] Centralized control by network operators, or [b] free user choice on the decentralized, open, and astoundingly successful end-to-end Internet? (Hint: It’s not [a].)
Copyrights and fair use. Google believes in protecting copyrights while maintaining strong, viable fair use rights in this new digital age. We support efforts by the U.S. Copyright Office to facilitate the use of orphan works (works whose rights-holders can’t be found), while fully respecting the interests of creators. We applauded the Supreme Court’s carefully calibrated decision in the Grokster case, but worked to defeat legislation that would have created new forms of liability for neutral technologies and services like Google.
Intermediary liability. As a search engine, Google crawls the Internet, gathering information everywhere we can find it. We’re a neutral tool that allows users to find information posted by others – like a continuously updated table of contents for the Internet. Not surprisingly, we don’t believe the Internet works well if intermediaries and ISPs are held liable for things created by others but made searchable through us. That’s why Google will continue to oppose efforts to force us to block or limit lawful speech; instead, we focus on providing users the information, tools, and features (such as SafeSearch) they need to protect themselves online.
This is just a taste. We’re also engaged in policy debates over privacy and spyware, trademark dilution, patent law reform, voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) regulation, and more. The Internet policy world is fluid, so our priorities will surely morph over time. And, of course, Google is a global company. In a future post, we’ll introduce you to some of the policy issues we’re confronting outside the U.S.