Hollywood champions of a proposed antipiracy bill seized on comments reportedly made by Google exec chairman Eric Schmidt as evidence that the company plans to oppose the legislation — and maybe not even adhere to it if passed.
The Protect IP Act, introduced in the Senate last week, would enable the government to obtain an order requiring that domain name services, search engines, ad services and payment processors cut off support for foreign sites devoted to distributing pirated content.
According to British newspaper the Guardian, Schmidt told reporters at the company’s Big Tent conference in London on Wednesday: “If there is a law that requires (domain name protocols) to do X and it’s passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it, then we would still fight it. If it’s a request, the answer is we wouldn’t do it, if it’s a discussion we wouldn’t do it.”
Schmidt also said website blocking raises free speech concerns, comparing it to Chinese attempts to restrict access to certain sites, according to the paper. He had also been addressing government efforts in Europe to write policy to combat piracy.
The Motion Picture Assn. of America, lobbying for the new law, issued a statement on his comments through exec VP for government relations Michael O’Leary: “Is Eric Schmidt really suggesting that if Congress passes a law and President Obama signs it, Google wouldn’t follow it?” he said. “As an American company respected around the world, it’s unfortunate that, at least according to its executive chairman’s comments, Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws,” he said. “We’ve heard this ‘but the law doesn’t apply to me’ argument before – but usually, it comes from content thieves, not a Fortune 500 company. Google should know better. And the notion that China would use a bi-partisan, narrowly tailored bill as a pretext for censorship is laughable, as Google knows, China does what China does.”
Later in the day, a Google spokeswoman said the company is seeking to ensure that legislation doesn’t endanger legal sites. “Of course we abide by the law in every country we do business. We respect what the Protect IP Act is trying to accomplish, and we’re working closely with Congress to make sure the bill targets sites dedicated to piracy while protecting free expression and legitimate sites.”
With studios and record labels decrying the search engine for the ease of access it provides to infringing sites, Google announced in December that it was implementing a series of steps including limiting terms in its autocomplete, making authorized content more accessible in search results and acting more quickly on takedown requests.