User-Generated Content: Microsoft vs. Google

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Back in November I was urging you to submit your views on a consultation document on the role of copyright in the knowledge economy, put out by the European Commission.

The submissions have now been published online, and I'm deeply disappointed to see that not many of took a blind bit of notice of my suggestion.

That's really a pity – not so much because it meant you ignored my sage advice, as for the chance you have thrown away of influencing the EU. For, looking at the list of respondents, it's clear that there are relatively few personal submissions – probably less than a dozen all told.

Now, I'm not naïve enough to believe that José Manuel Barroso will personally ponder my ideas on this issue, but I hope that someone, somewhere, in the European Commission will at least note their existence when offering a summary of the views expressed.

In other words, I do think it's worth giving your two ha'p'orth on this matter, if only to counterbalance other views.

Talking of which, it's fascinating to compare and contrast what two giants of the computing world, Microsoft and Google, have to say on the subject in their submissions.

As you might expect, Microsoft loves copyright, and wants everything to be done to keep it as it is, nice and strong, with no silly exceptions that might let people do anything so subversive as taking content and using it to create something new. Here's its opening comments:

Robust copyright protection is a key driver of Europe’s creativity, technological progress and competitiveness as a whole.

In general terms, the existing EU system of copyright protection works well in promoting innovation. It provides the incentives and rewards necessary to attract investment, fund research and development, secure a return on investment and re-invest in further innovation.

Microsoft continues:

It is important to keep in mind that inadequate copyright protection and enforcement have precisely the opposite effect—they allow unauthorised, unpaid copying and distribution to compete unfairly with and undermine the business models for legitimate content distribution.

Which sounds remarkably like a dig at free software which allows *precisely* that kind of unpaid copying and distribution – and which is certainly undermining Microsoft's business model. Nor is it the only one. Here's another:

Copyright laws should not be redrawn to be more technologically specific, or to promote particular business models or technologies.