Google's Eric Schmidt on the Google Review

Eric Schmidt Mr Schmidt would not be drawn on revelations that Facebook tried to plant negative stories about Google

It was dubbed by some the Google review, so who better to comment on the Hargreaves Review of intellectual property than the chairman of Google?

And luckily, on the very day that the review recommending changes in the UK copyright regime was published, Eric Schmidt was around to be quizzed.

The man who's just moved out of the CEO's office to make way for Larry Page spent half an hour talking to journalists during a break at a Google event in a Hertfordshire hotel.

When I asked him whether Google's founders had - as David Cameron claimed - said they could never have started their business in the UK because of our copyright laws, he looked puzzled.

"I'm not aware of that quote," he said. But Mr Schmidt said he did believe that it was still easier to get a business like Google underway in the United States than in Europe.

Smear campaign

"You need to be able to get enough steam behind you before you get injuncted out of existence," he explained.

He had only seen a one paragraph summary of the Hargreaves conclusions - which of course do not advocate bringing in the American fair use system - but he said Google was supportive of the report.

And when we went on to discuss the recent launch of the Google Music service there was a good example of how adjusting the copyright laws could help get innovative ventures off the ground.

Music beta by Google sign Google Music is only accessible in the US

The service, only available in the US, enables users to store their music on Google's servers in the "cloud", so that they can use it on any connected device.

But it was launched without an agreement with the music industry after very lengthy negotiations, which, according to Eric Schmidt, did not fail for lack of effort on Google's part.

"It is completely legal under American law," he told us," because it's a personal back-up copy, not a shared copy." But would it be legal under UK law?

"That's a very good question," he replied, going on to say the company had made a decision not to launch outside the US because of legal concerns.

But one of the measures proposed by Hargreaves - permitting so-called "format shifting" where users copy music for personal use, could change the outlook for this kind of service.

Mind you, a music industry executive told me last week that he and his colleagues would not be at all enthusiastic about a UK version of the service from the company they regard as one of the prime facilitators of piracy.

On another hot issue, the incident last week which saw Facebook revealed as having tried to plant negative stories about Google, Mr Schmidt refused to be drawn.

"Ask Facebook about Facebook, ask Google about Google," was all he'd say. Luckily, his amiable European director of communications DJ Collins intervened: "If I suggested we did something like that, I'd be fired," he said. Phew, thought the assembled hacks, we've got our quote. Thanks, DJ.

Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The music and publishing industry is laughably behind the times and in need of a massive shake up.

    Why is it that I can have so much information at my fingertips, yet buying and listening to music when I want and where I want is still so difficult?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Publishers are making the same mistakes with eBooks as the music industry. People like the convenience of eBooks, but they cannot be sold on, borrowed, etc, so have intrinsically lower value, yet some publishers think they can charge hardback prices.

    Unsurprisingly, the expensive eBooks are rapidly appearing on BitTorrent, the publishers are complaining, though they only have themselves to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The whole download culture exists because of the attitude of the media industries. You will always get freeloaders, the music industry (in particular) made downloading morally acceptable by charging exorbitant prices for highly restricted products of no residual value.

    They are, now, starting to learn their lesson, but the genie is out of the bottle and bullying Google woon't put it back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Type your full name into any one of the leading search engines and the results will look like you have just been pushed through a R.R. turbine. Definitely not the kind of people that I would want to do business with when it is nothing more than a wind farm full of bleating idiots and drowning fools lost at sea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Google's job, indeed any search engine's job, is to reflect the content of the web, whatever it may be. Filtering out terms that may or may not be associated with piracy is more morally wrong than the piracy itself. This is like banning the postal service because some people send illegal items through the mail.



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