back to article Grow up, Google: You're threatening IT growth

Google's stroppy-teenager ethos to intellectual property has been noted here before. But the company's truculent and immature approach is having really serious consequences on its home turf. Google now poses a serious threat to the future of the most explosive new sector in IT hardware: the consumer tablet. And if Google doesn't …

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Google's second innovation: Gmail

and the AJAX programming model that makes the UI so fluid.

There's a lot of AJAX out there now, and most of it is copying Gmail.

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WTF?

no, not really

AJAX has been out there for much longer time, you can find more info on wiki https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Ajax_(programming)

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FAIL

Google? Invented AJAX?

Actually, AJAX was invented (the term AJAX was first coined years later) by Microsoft; more specifically the Outlook team.

The Outlook team were the ones who came up with the XmlHttpRequest which became the kingpin of AJAX. And they did it for the exact reason: To make Outlook web access more fluent and allow javascript to update the DOM asynchronously and without re-requesting the entire page.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XMLHttpRequest#History_and_support

Google is good at copying, though.

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Boffin

Microsoft? Invented?

Granted, XMLHttpRequest ole object was first accessible through Internet Explorer (the only browser dumb enough to allow websites access to OLE)... But AJAX doesn't have (and never is) just about XMLHTTPRequests. In fact, iframes (or regular frames) were used long before that to allow for the same dynamic functionality, and are used today for things regular AJAX doesn't allow, like file uploads.

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you're quite right...

iFrames were first introduced in Internet Explorer in 1996. In 2006 Microsoft were granted the patent for the basic Ajax technology which they invented.

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Stop

Software Patents...

...are a solution to a problem that did not exist.

Software was protected through copyright not patents. If you write a piece of software that is cut and paste from someone else's copyrighted source code then that is wrong and you should get dinged for it. That is already covered under copyright law.

If you write the code independently and it does the same thing as another company's software then that is fine as proven in the landmark Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, 35 F.3d 1435 (9th Cir. 1994) case. "Look and feel" cannot be copyrighted.

Software patents allow concepts and imagined ideas to be protected and that is quite simply stupid. Stroking a finger across a tablet surface is subject to a patent. The shape of a phone is patented. Even packaging is being claimed as being company protected. This is sheer lunacy and kills innovation. Yet, it is the law in the US and will continue to employ many lawyers as long as the legislation exists.

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So what innovation

is really being killed by patents?

I can see that patents are a block if you like to rip off other people's ideas, but I don't see a sudden halt in innovation actually happening, just a shed load of "waah waah the sky is falling" from people like Google who like benefiting from the creativity of others.

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Trollface

"Stroking a finger across a tablet surface is subject to a patent."

I totally agree. I remember at the time when I read about this case that, if you could patent such crazy things, I was going to take out a patent about how to have a crap...or, you might say, "Big Jobs"...but he would probably sue me for that.

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RE: So what innovation is really being killed by patents?

>> I reckon quite a lot but you don't generally get to hear about most of it.

The problem now is that patents are largely a tool owned and used by big businesses. They amass **HUGE** quantities of them, and keep patenting every more varied derivations from the same basics - as well as new areas.

The problems are many fold :

1) They no longer work as intended. Many patents are so "wooly" as to be virtually useless in actually understanding what's going on - and so society isn't actually benefitting from publication as was intended.

2) Because of the sheer number and breadth of scope, it is impossible to do a full search and find all patents that may, or may not, apply to your new widget.

3) Because of 2, it is now almost impossible to make anything that doesn't infringe on someone's patent. Your only way of knowing is to see how many letters arrive accusing you of infringement.

4) The system is broken. When the letters do arrive, unless you are also a big business, with your own arsenal of patents, then you have just two options - shut up or pay up. In effect, it matters not whether you actually infringe on someone's patent, it will cost more than a small business can afford to go to court and win. If you do win, you will still be out of pocket as you won't get your legal bills paid by the other side - perhaps in part, not in full.

5) The system is broken. If someone does infringe on your patent, unless you are a big business (note the pattern here ?), then it's unlikely you'll be able to afford to defend it. In effect, a big business can just take your invention, steal it, and screw you in court until you run out of money and fold. It's happened time and time again.

The original idea behind patents was that in return for publishing details of your invention, and so enriching scientific knowledge in general, you got a limited time in which you could prevent anyone else using it without a licence from you. So if you came up with a great new idea, you could share it (society benefits) and you could also still benefit from it. This was seen as a win-win situation as it genuinely encouraged innovation as you actually had a chance to benefit before others just copied you.

Now it's stifling innovation. It's a brave inventor that tried to get anywhere now without backing from a big business. If you do come up with something genuinely new then it's expensive to get a patent and even prohibitively expensive to actually use it. Meanwhile, those same big businesses will almost certainly find a patent they can accuse you of infringing, and so can effectively shut you down - even you aren't at fault.

That brings us to the argument in the article - that Google was stupid not to buy Nortel's patents when it could have done. These days, as explained above, business is done like the cold war - you need to have enough weapons (patents) to shut down the opposition so that they'll be too scared to use their's against you. That was a big problem for Apple when it started making phones - people like Nokia have so many relevant patents that Apple could not avoid infringing on them, and not having anything to fight back with, Nokia (and others) could effectively name their price.

So the current patent system, especially in the US, is broken. The period of protection is too long. Patents are awarded too easily. It's too costly for small guys to get a patent. It's too costly for a small guy to enforce one. It's too expensive for a small guy to defend against an infringement charge.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: RE: So what innovation is really being killed by patents?

Many of Qualcomm's important CDMA patents have already run out. It's 20 years from filing.

Your argument is really for longer patent terms, lower barriers to protection, and fairer enforcement.

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Devil

Quite a lot of innovation has been trashed.

You rarely get to hear about them, because these new ideas usually get squashed like bugs by the patent holders the moment they get to market.

One specific example I know of is the video-stream and thumbnail parts of the "CITP" protocol, invented independently in Sweden.

It cannot be used in the USA because a US company patented the entire concept of streaming video and thumbnails in that industry!

- They weren't granted a patent for 'the way they do it', they were granted it for doing it *at all*.

These patents fall into those first four points in Simon Hobson's list, as they give no indication whatsoever as to the method of streaming. So one can invent an entirely new and innovative way of streaming video, yet still be prevented from doing it by these patents.

Point 4) arose when a non-US company tried to sell a product using this new method in the US, and were taken to the cleaners.

I only know about this because the protocol is being used outside the USA. Switch it for a US-based company doing the inventing, and *splat*.

Anon for fairly obvious reasons...

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What is REALLY the point of patent?

The point of patents is to encourage innovation. They do that by guaranteeing that those who invented something get rewarded for it. The society profits from the fact that more things get invented.

But when patents cover things that are so broad and thin that dozens of people work on the same ideas, and one of them patents it and sues everybody else, then patents become a barrier to innovation, because it becomes difficult to create anything without getting sued into oblivion.

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Boffin

Re: What is REALLY the point of patent?

"The point of patents is to encourage innovation."

Not really. You can argue that a broad objective is to make it more likely that people will do stuff because they can get a monopoly in exchange for telling people how they did it, but people will generally do stuff anyway. You can question whether it's fair to grant just one party a monopoly when many people may have done the same stuff independently. That can actually discourage people from doing stuff and telling other people about it.

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Superb Article

>>Actually, it is worse than that. Google treated building up a defensive patent arsenal as a joke. When Nortel's patents came up for auction recently, Google made a succession of bids that were mathematical in-jokes – culminating in a bid of $3.14159 bn.

>>This must have been hilarious at school, but treating it as a Montessori class isn't appropriate when an IT sector hinges on a Google taking its responsibilities seriously.

Absolutely spot on. A bit like naming the next Android "Ice Cream Sandwich" or whatever it is, is bordering on childish.

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blah

I fail to see how google's version naming is childish but naming your version after big cat isn't. Not to mention ms naming it mango or nodo which was a stab at a compeditor. At least google's naming has some logic with the alphabetical versions

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As opposed to Mango?

Or perhaps naming all of your major revisions after cats.

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How is that childish.

How is that more childish than calling it say Mango, just like Microsoft is calling there next update. It does not matter what one calls a project after all. It the same that it does not really matter what you bid in a auction as long as the bid is higher than the person you are bidding against.

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nomina sunt odiosa

yeah, naming your OS so that you can say "asta la Vista, baby" when you are getting its crap out of the harddrive is much more clever!

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Not convinced

I'm with Google on the patent thing - they think it sucks, and really don't want to spend $4BILLION on a portfolio. Why would they. That's a lot of cash.

I can't figure out though why they are not putting more effort in to protecting Android customers. Or maybe they are behind the scenes. Who knows.

But Google being the death of growth? Maybe a tad hysterical. Patents are the death of growth. Not Google.

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Not so

"Patents are the death of growth. Not Google."

Nope.

Patents, when the system works as it was originally designed, promote growth and innovation.

The current patent system is the death of innovation. As pointed out in the article, it is failing. Patents are being actively used by large corporations to stifle innovation. This is the system's fault, and is not in keeping with the original purpose of patents. This was to get those who innovate and invent to publish what they have done while providing them protection from those who would copy their ideas.

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Facepalm

why

did they bid 4B then if they didn't want to spend that much?

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Anonymous Coward

Why would they?

Because they have a mountain of cash and this is a game they could win by spending on patents, lawyers and lobbying. You don't have to believe software patents are a good thing to use them as a weapon. It's like paying for missiles in the Cold War: you know they have worked if you don't have to launch them.

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Mushroom

They don't think it sucks

Ifs worse than that. They have no belief in any kind of IP protection whether it's patents, copyright or dome other form.

As long as it's not their own IP they will plunder anyone else's they can get away with. And make a profit from it.

Look at google books for another prime example. The fact that many of the works they were copying was conveniently ignored, until they were forced to deal with it.

They act just like spoilt rich brats who think their money let's them do anything - far more so than most other corporates.

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Childish?

You mean like codename "Sagan"...er, "Butt Head astronomer"...er, "Lawyers Are Wimps"?

http://www.neatorama.com/tag/butt-head-astronomer/

(Scroll down to number two)

Childishness seems to run in the industry. I'm surprised there's never been a codename "Nyahh-Nyahh"! (And someone will probably point out there was one.)

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Because. . .

"I'm with Google on the patent thing - they think it sucks, and really don't want to spend $4BILLION on a portfolio. Why would they."

Because, irrespective of what they think about other people's patents, *that* is the world in which they live and operate, and continuing to simply continue operating as if other people's patents have no validity or legal force is a *very poor business strategy* - and not merely for them, but for their partners too.

As an aside, Brin's suggestion that Robert Levine give away his book instead of selling it shows just how out-of-touch with reality these despicable people are. He and his clique have personally earned billions of dollars in as parasitic fashion as possible - running ads against other people's content, (not to mention their aiding and abetting IP and content theft) - and he now seems to think that Levine (and everyone else) should be willing to work for free, and be satisfied to know that his work is only worth a pittance that will be captured by Google.

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Childcatcher

advertising vs Tech field

I tend to agree with most of what was presented. I think that google is very much like an opportunist wealthy spoiled kid playing in a field he doesn't belong.

Android is better off without google. I can even dare and say that Apple would help more android than google had.

After all, it is because of iOS that Android has flourished

One must not forget that google is an advertising company by revenue.

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Something in what you say

Apple has been, by and large, a good company wrt open source software. Not perfect, of course, but no one is.

They've done a lot with/for CUPS/zeroconf, the webkit engine, gcc and g++, and other OSS projects. They've also supported those who've been under legal attack for using Apple's software and services, when the attackee has done so in agreement with Apple's licenses.

Again, they haven't been 100% accurate in this ... no organization that's done as much as they have could be ... but if I were starting a company or a project today, I'd much prefer to work with Apple than Google. Heck, lately even MS has shown it's better at backing up its business partners than Google is. And let's let that sentence sink in for a moment.

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Unhappy

a good company wrt open source software

Beacuse it benefits them, yes they are embracing OS it the way it should be, but please don't make it seem like they are doing it as a favour to the industry. If they where why not make their whole development tool suite open source and let people develop for iOS on say linux or even windows?

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Idiot

Why is pointing out a company's actions taken as a blind promotion of altruism? Are you insinuating that the poster or the readers in this forum are stupid? That they do not know that corporations follow their own best interests?

In spite of your strawman argument, the point is valid: With the full tacit understanding that corporations follow their own goals, for profit, would you rather do business with one whose goals are aligned with yours and their customers, or one whose goals seem orthogonal to the rest of the industry in which they are attempting to play?

That's the point. It is not whether people imagine Apple to be the messiah, doing the good for mankind; but that Apple's actions seem to imply that their very core values and profit-seeking goals, coincide for the most part with the expectations and purposes of its clients and business partners. In contrast to Google's who seem to be irresponsibly playing a game.

-dZ.

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Idoit returns

> Why is pointing out a company's actions taken as a blind promotion of altruism?

I read the comment as the op using the fact that Apple contribute a lot to OS to support their belief that Apple would be a better company to do business with. I was trying to point out that the fact that they do this is irrelevant and adds nothing to support that point. If it wasn't mentioned for that reason why mention it?

My business involves relying on both Apple and Google, for me neither really fit it with the way I like to work and operate but life as it is all about compromises. I have dislike for both companies at a philosophical level but that has nothing to do with day to day business. Out of the two Apple causes me more a lot more grief than Google, but that's my circumstances.

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@vic 4

>> I was trying to point out that the fact that they do this is irrelevant and adds nothing to support that point. If it wasn't mentioned for that reason why mention it?

I'd say that it is relevant. It shows a pattern of willingness to share and promote common solutions.

You countered this by saying that they do not do it out of the goodness of their heart, which is true, but irrelevant. The fact that their core business interests--selfish and greedy as they may be--directs them to such actions, suggests that as long as their interests continue in such directions everybody who participates in those solutions will benefit.

More to the point, Apple is absolutely *transparent* and predictable in such behaviour: they never claim they are open-source hippies or working purely for the benefit of mankind. They will hide and horde some of their technologies as well as sharing openly others, all in for their own interests.

As long as these interests align with their customers or partners, everybody benefits; and there is no need to assume or expect any altruism in that.

-dZ.

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That was kind of my point

I don't consider any company ideal, really, just as no person is. However, Apple seems to have been better as a business partner, at least in backing their business partners in lawsuits, and have done a pretty decent job working with the OSS community. Choosing one or the other, I'd probably go with Apple because of this and some other factors as well, though of course YMMV.

Look, I'm the father of two boys who are nearly teens. Trust me, I see a good bit of googlish behavior in them ALREADY. I get enough of that at home that I don't need more of it in the office.

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What Google (and us) need Google to do

Is forget trying to out patent those twats at MS/Oracle/Apple and whoever else is benefiting from the ludicrous patent system and lobby the governments of the world to overhaul software patents, ban them even.

Unless that happens we'll get to the point where almost everything is patented or at least no normal companies can respond to challenges, and there'll be a) no innovation and b) product prices will go through the roof because 90% of the cost will be license costs (see MS's $5 per HTC phone for the start of it)

I.e.

patent lifetime short - if you've not done anything with your invention within 5 years that's your own bloody fault

limit sale of patents - you can license of course, but no selling patents - if you didn't invent it then you've no right to call it yours, that should include buying companies purely for patents.

(Re)define invention - apple really takes the piss here, you all know what I mean.

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly

A company that I occasionally freelance for building Android apps sticks purely to the European market because they do not want to get involved in all the bull-crap surrounding software patents.

Granted they're probably losing a huge amount of sales, but I imagine those sales don't come anywhere near the loss caused by a patent lawsuit in the land of opportunity.

The idea that you can patent "one click purchase" or even the idea of a combo box is ridiculous.

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In your little dream world. . .

"(Google needs to) forget trying to out patent those twats at MS/Oracle/Apple and whoever else is benefiting from the ludicrous patent system and lobby the governments of the world to overhaul software patents, ban them even."

Evidently you either...

1) Do not realize that Google's whole empire is built on a single patent (the PageRank patent), or

2) Think that Google needs to conform to your view of what the world should be, and destroy their multi-billion-dollar-a-year business for the sake of your worldview.

3) Both of the above.

*sighs*

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You're the one taking the p*ss

"(Re)define invention - apple really takes the piss here, you all know what I mean."

I think it's you who is taking the piss and trying to redefine invention

Apple:

- Multitouch

- iPod UI

- Apple make they make their own chips too

and over in the Linux world?

er....... Unity?

The patent system is BROKEN, but parasitic 'tards are the last people who can fix it, they prove every time they don't value innovation.

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Stop

Google are anti-competitive

Microsoft and Apple are engineering companies and they need each other - Microsoft need Apple to keep the monopolies commission at bay and Apple need Microsoft to provide MS Office on iOS and to make them look 'cool' in comparison. Apple and Microsoft have lots of patents because they have created lots and lots of new technologies over the years.

Google are an advertising company and their sole aim is to get as many people onto their systems as possible. Unfortunately due to their dominance in the advertising market they have crap loads of money which enables them to force their way into any market they want by trampling over the opposition. The only anti-competitive behaviour going on at the moment is being done by Google. Of course they want to get rid of software patents because without them they would be able to take over the world without giving anyone a dime.

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RE: What Google (and us) need Google to do

>> lobby the governments of the world to overhaul software patents, ban them even.

one government is enough - US. Software patents are not valid elsewhere anyway.

If I were to write and then sell some (even moderately) smart algorithm, the license would explicitly prohibit the licensee from using or distributing the code in the US. I don't want some twats suing the socks off me because of imagined similarity with things already patented there. And even if I was feeling brave, I don't have the time or resources to do research this jungle which US lawyers call intelectual property protection laws.

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FAIL

RE: You're the one taking the p*ss

Nope, it's actually you, clueless Anonymous Coward - nothing on your list was invented by Apple.

Get a clue, "'tard".

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Multitouch

"Multi-touch technology began in 1982, when the University of Toronto's Input Research Group developed the first human-input multi-touch system."

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-touch

Apple were the first to put it on a phone, that's all.

As for the iPod UI, are you seriously suggesting that Apple invented the concept of a grid of icons? Really?

And over in the Linux world, how about Linux itself? Or hell, if buying patents counts as "innovation" these days, how about this: http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_owned.php

Coo, look, a shitload of patents.

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Google = Linux

Microsoft killed off Linux Netbook with its starter deals and support .

Android has only successful because Apple rips off the customer and Microsoft stuck had its business model stuck up its arse.

IOS looked very pale with its software limitations. Phones evolves yet Apple has now seemingly chosen the dinosaur route.

This is the very first Linux derivative to take off big and Apple knows its in danger of becoming the also ran.

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@Alan

Granted MS didn't help the Linux Netbook and I would have loved it to succeed. However they can't be accused of being the main reason it died. The Linux Netbook simply wasn't attractive enough to the average user. Almost everything that makes Linux attractive and great is in a "layer" that means sweet FA to the average user. It's easy for us techies to fail to see this. But if you extract yourself. From you detailed appreciation of the value of the command line and scriptable everythingness, the simple elegance of the user directory security model and the love of the comprehensively keyboard shortcuttable GUI you will see none of this huge advantages register with the average user. The only average Jo advantages I can think of are - in order of importance - 1. virus free, 2. Low cost

Unfortunately, as tempting as it is to see low cost as a big advantage, any marketeer will be able to tell you, though it's an important factor, it's easy to rate too highly. Virus free, unfortunately, it seems, doesn't outrank known, (perversely) trusted, more capable (before shouting "CRAP" remember this is from a non-techie perspective. - compare office to open office) and "compatible with existing investment."

Habit also plays a huge part. So as much as I would love to agree with you, but I can't.

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Anonymous Coward

@Alan Denman

Tinfoil hat conspiracies again!

Manufacturers wanted Linux on netbooks because it gave them higher margins. But the punters wanted Windows. M$ met them halfway with a crippled Win7.

When you see who uses a netbook in the real world you will understand. Linux is for the tech elite, not NetMums or middle management.

When will you realise that nobody bloody wants an OS that doesn't run M$ Office and has no USP.

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Can't really agree

I wouldn't say Apple rips off its customers. It provides hardware/software/solutions to people who, if they don't want them, can go elsewhere. If people aren't satisfied with Apple's customer service, they can go elsewhere. If people find someone offering something better, they can go elsewhere.

Now, you might think Apple is ripping people off, and for all I know they are, but their customers don't seem to agree and that group has been growing fairly steadily for the past ten years.

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WTF?

Which all assumes

that you know Google's strategy/gameplan.

And also that Google don't know something you don't.

I'd be very surprised if it turned out that Google really hadn't a clue what they were doing with all this. My personal opinion is that co's like Apple are looking at the next payday with greed and maintaining immediate market position as a priority where Google are playing the long game and have already looked 3 moves and 4 patent layers deeper.

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WTF?

Keep dreaming

Google have been around for 15 years now and have failed to achieve revenue from anything other than their advertising brokerage.

By this evidence they will be long gone before they come up with any "long game".

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WTF?

What are you on about?!

Do you have anything to back that up? Anything at all?

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FAIL

Conspiracy much?

"So Google sponsors front groups, think tanks, academic's legal departments, all waging the fight against copyright and patents."

Oh noes! Koch-brother-style astroturfing! What if they convince us? WHAT IF THEY ARE RIGHT!

"Why don't you give your book away for free?"

Wrong question.

The correct one is: what will keep me from grabbing your book for free?

What will keep me from doing that is: 1) Can buy at amazon in two clicks 2) If I'm interested I consider shelling out the correct thing to do.

Not 2) is not your market anyway.

State-Guaranteed IP protection stopping me from doing so? Not so much.

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Nothing will

Nothing will stop you from grabbing the book for free. But in the long run people who write books will go and do something else that actually provides some sort of monetary reward for effort. Which is fine if you don't think books serve any useful purpose to society.

The soviet system collapsed because people weren't paid competitive wages (though they were at least getting paid, so they bothered turning up to work). What do you think will happen to all those industries where you can just go and take the product without paying for it?

That's right. Gone.

We don't have to worry about the Book Burners from Farenheit 451 killing off the book - we've got the Freetards instead.

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