Here’s Why Google Doesn’t Respect Private Property

Jan 11, 2020 by

By Peter Russo –

With the Christmas of 2019 completed and a staggering amount of delectable new toys around for the kids to fight over, I’ve had to repeat a long-standing parental axiom with renewed vigor:  don’t take other people’s stuff without permission. It’s a good lesson for governments and businesses as well. A case in point is that of the yet to be scheduled Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc, which the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear.

The history is long and complicated and involves a near ten-year-old battle over whether one could (and should) copyright computer code, here “Application Programming Interfaces” or APIs. APIs are the ubiquitous sets of software languages that facilitate interoperability between computer programs.

This all started in 2010 when Oracle filed suit against Google for copyright infringement on their in-house Java-related APIs, which Google used in part to create the Android operating system. Google lost this first round. That decision was later overturned and at the subsequent jury trial, Google won successfully, arguing their acquisition was one of “fair use,” the legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. Oracle then appealed that ruling, winning in turn in 2016. With a score tied up at two to two, a circuit split, the Supreme Court has agreed to settle the matter decisively.

Neither of the tech giants involved here has entirely clean reputations on any number of issues. But in this case, only Google is credibly accused of stealing intellectual property actively under the protection of copyright, a fact they hardly dispute. Instead, the search engine company argues that the APIs they copied shouldn’t be copyrightable in the first place, making their apparent theft of the code legal by default.

But this claim is too overbroad and would devastate copyright protections within the digital sphere if enacted. APIs not only form the fundamental building blocks of workable software, but they are crafted with substantial creativity and finesse. Simply put, they are essential to software innovation and must be protected by copyright.

Google’s argument, and the clear disregard for private property protections it implies, shouldn’t be too surprising coming from Google, a company that consistently embraces the collectivist left. The political left has long admired the work of thinkers like Marx, who stresses not only the value of collectivism, but also the abolition of private property in its entirety. Indeed, Google’s lax approach to copyright mirrors the disdain for private ownership that so many on the left hold.

Given Google’s left-wing proclivities, a case certainly can be made that this has inevitably translated into a corporate policy that is hostile to political conservatives. For example, researchers at Columbia and Northwestern University found that Google results pointed to right-leaning organizations only 11% of the time compared to their left-leaning competitors. In another study analyzing 2000 search results, around 40% steered viewers toward “far-left” sites like MSNBC and Salon.

As a matter of history, far-left collectivists have rarely respected the fundamental right to private property — and Google, it would seem, is no different. What’s more, it’s not just tech firms Google has stolen from — complaints have also been filed by authorspublisherssoftware providersnewspapers and others. Indeed, their recent legal history has been very troubling, and they have found themselves in a host of legal troubles, both here and abroad, regarding intellectual property theft and piracy. Antitrust lawsuits and investigations have been routine and are accelerating with the recent news in September that almost fifty state attorneys general have launched a nationwide investigation on antitrust concerns over Google’s dominance in online advertising.  All of this has fueled bipartisan efforts to severely curtail the company’s power and influence.

With a leftward bias, coupled with a blossoming legacy of divisive and anticompetitive practices, Google’s reputation has been perhaps irrevocably tarnished for many Americans.  It’s no wonder that a recent Axios/Harris Poll notes Google’s corporate reputation has experienced a 13-slot decline from #28 down to #41.

It is hard not to recognize the parallels between Google corporate policy and the redistributive economic policies and practices embraced by many figures on the left whose values they also embody. They even come with the usual arguments that the results of these transgressions actually benefit the greater good. After all, theft is advantageous to everyone who succeeds at it. True enough.

How this case pans out next year is anyone’s guess, but it seems that what has emerged here is a story of a once-promising company who has let unscrupulous business practices taint its innovative and beneficent “free and open” reputation, a story of how Google’s persistent attempts to undermine private property protections by aggressively challenging fair-use doctrines have merged with a political tradition mired in disdain for property rights, especially when it is to their own benefit to do so. The perception that much of Google’s success has required the illicit use of the uncompensated work of others should be troubling to all.

Source: Here’s Why Google Doesn’t Respect Private Property – American Thinker

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