back to article Google's ethics, cosy chats under Westminster scrutiny

Google's ethics and its close relationship with the British government came under scrutiny in Parliament yesterday. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into the creative industries. When a small indie label, which happens to have Adele on its roster, is paying more tax than Google and Amazon …


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  1. Psyx

    It would be interesting to know Google's total budget for lobbying in the UK, as compared to their corporate tax bill. I suspect that the first outweighs the second.

  2. Bernard

    As many people have said here many times

    If your UK operation is too insignificant to pay a sensible amount of corporation tax your lobbying access should be proportionally small.

    Having non-UK firms siphon off UK profits to low tax countries while heavily influencing legislation to disadvantage UK companies that are already at a disadvantage because they pay tax properly is clearly unsustainable.

    It's the institutional equivalent of bribing your way out of paying a fee or fine. Good for you, good for the guy who gets the money. Crap for everyone else.

    1. cantankerousblogger

      Re: As many people have said here many times

      To misquote the yanks: No representation without taxation.

      1. Richard IV

        To properly quote the yanks

        No taxation without representation. Where's my Cayman Islands ballot paper? And my Liechtenstein one? And the opportunity to get various legislatures in the Channel Islands to add a law requiring accounts to be filed in Sumerian to their statute books.

    2. Invidious Aardvark

      Re: As many people have said here many times

      I don't care how much tax any firm pays, nor where it is based - no firm should never have heavy influence in legislation via lobbying. Governments should (I'm not saying that they always do) pass legislation based on what is good for the country and its people; companies invariably want to have legislation that is good for them.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: too insignificant to pay a sensible amount of corporation tax

      and as we keep trying to explain to you, regardless of the amount of the money that might be written on a check/cheque to the government from a corporation, the corporation hasn't paid any tax, the consumer did. Because as far as the shareholders and operators of the company are concerned there are only two things on the balance sheet: income and costs (taxes are just a particularly troublesome cost from both an accounting and legal perspective). And when income - costs < required normal profit it's time to close shop. Now even on a marginal basis, the corporation also incurs costs to collect those taxes, which in turn increases both the amount of normal profit they need to pay to investors as well as the actual cost they incur. Maybe this only results in a slight shift in the amount of work done for the company instead of the government at the company's expense, or maybe you're hiring a wing of FTEs to deal with it, but whichever it is it is an additional cost.

      Which means there are really only two rational ways to collect taxes: property taxes and income taxes. Everything else is a sham meant to hide how much the government is taking from you at the point of a gun.

  3. nuked
    Black Helicopters

    Would be interesting to know how much the UK government pays for any 'special relationship' with Google, and whether this might go up significantly after they are forced to pay fair tax.

  4. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down

    "There's a view that intellectual property is a barrier to growth. That's a lie, and unfortunately one bought by influential people," he told the panel on Tuesday. Potential investors believe the UK "government hates copyright", according to Heath, who added that he too had witnessed "a bewildering ambivalence, if not hostility to copyright".


    Intellectual Property legislation isn't some immutable thing, it's whatever we see fit to enact and enforce.

    Rigidly enforced IP without FRAND type agreements and far-longer-than-realistic exclusivity periods are the problem here, not to mention certain high-profile companies in given areas who fail, resolutely, to pay any attention to changing consumer usage patterns.

    Had he decided to get specific (eg complaining about how the orphan works proposals go too far in the opposite direction) that would be fine - but he didn't, he generalised and managed to effectively moan that in a world where the internet exists, is not putting the genie back in the bottle.

    Sadly, this piece appears, to me, to be a load of contrarian nonsense rather than a coherent argument. It is right to ask about any company that has lobby access to, but to pretend that large media corps haven't, for years, been bending the ear of politicians to get their way is utter foolishness - and, coming from a well-informed scribe like Mr Orlowski, disingenuous foolishness to boot.

    On top of which, it's all very well to say "Oh, but industry bods say it's the devil" - this would be the same industry that says piracy/downloads are killing them even while their profits from digital music sales keep climbing year on year, yes? And the same overall copyright system that even conservative think tanks view as flawed, as demonstrated in this story?

    Yeah, this is clearly a story about how the Evil Tech Companies stomped all over those tiny powerless media companies. Observe while a large tributary spills from my lacrimal canal.

    1. Captain Underpants

      It should be noted that while I'm hardly one to be entirely happy with the conduct of Big Tech, I suspect they're ultimately no worse than the equally dodgy Big Media companies who lobby so hard for nonsense like the DEB, so frankly, anything that Big Tech gets done to it should be done at least as vigorously to Big Media and its lobbyists.

  5. John Lilburne

    The internet does not do competition

    This is something that politicians need to recognise. The internet only does one of anything, and innovation is not part of it. One tat bazzar (ebay), one search engine (Google), one advertising network (Google), one online retailer (Amazon), one music seller (Apple), one social network (Facebook), one supplier of crap information (wikipedia), one site for maps (Google).

    Also note that none of the above are actually creating anything they are all profiting of the work of others which they take for free.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: The internet does not do competition

      > Also note that none of the above are actually creating anything they are all profiting of the work of others which they take for free.

      WTF? You think Google maps is some service that doesn't actually exist or is not of the hallowed 'creative' set? Well, you put it up Saturday afternoons then.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: The internet does not do competition

        You think that Google has created the map data and not bought it in from other companies? That its dominance is not based on the overlaying of user created content? That its street view section does not contain still images ripped off from 3rd parties. That it does not overlay ARR images from geodata ripped from flickr? That its satellite view is not ripped from NASA? Which part of Google maps is actually created by Google?

        1. Dante

          Re: The internet does not do competition

          I would hazard a guess that the part which was created via the Google cars was actually created by Google.

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

            Google Cars

            Sopmeone else who fell for the cover story whilst they hacked our wifi passwords for fun and profit.

    2. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Down

      Re: The internet does not do competition

      Err, no.

      Even at a fundamental level, the internet *does* do competition.

      The problem is not The Internet, the problem is The Human Desire To Minimise Hassle And Get Everything In One Place (Or Failing That As Few Places As Possible).

      The Internet being an information distribution mechanism, it's natural to see that it is possible to use it as much as a way to provide services as goods (whether digital or tangible). Many, but not all of the companies you've named are service providers, but you make the utterly cack-handed assumption that services are free to provide. Just because they're ad-funded and free at point of use does not make them free to provide.

      Bing Maps? Bing Search? Amazon/emusic/bandcamp music sales? Netflix/Lovefilm/Film4OD/CurzonOnDemand film streaming? LinkedIn/Bebo/Google+/Diaspora for social networking? Innumerable message boards and wikis for infosharing? Play/Zavvi/BookDepository/Waterstones for online shopping? Any of these ringing a bell? Or are they magically invisible just because they're not necessarily the first one to come to mind in the categories you mention?

      If anything, the Internet facilitates competition by providing ease of accessibility for customers. Sure, making your name known's a bugger, but then it always has been.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: The internet does not do competition

        Bing, linkedin beebo, Google+ are also rans. heck I still use LJ but almost everyone has gone elsewhere. In each category there is one site that eventually gets 80-90% of the traffic. We change search engines less often than we change utility provider. Today some software update was taking place and I only just caught in time the fact that it was about to install google chrome and hijack my current browser with google toolbar. A couple of days ago it was some 'ask toolbar' that was about to be installed. If I look at the wife's machine its full of hijack software from Google, Apple or somewhere else that is redirecting to their sites. None of it is based on innovation, its just due to people not being arsed to change to something else, so they're all trying to hijack your computer activity.

        1. Captain Underpants

          Re: The internet does not do competition


          That's not a problem with competition though, that's a problem with the audience.

          It's hardly Google's fault that nobody else has invested in the development and marketing (with the latter being key, these days) of a search engine to be getting even half the traffic Google get for search. The point, though, is that an alternative is literally 2 seconds of typing away - and frankly as long as that remains the case then your assertion that "the internet doesn't do competition" is a nonsense. It facilitates competition hugely - that does not preclude massive market dominance by one player.

  6. Irongut
    Thumb Down

    Google's tax practices are dishonest sure but the music industry is no better. Their determination to move to a licensed model instead of an ownership model is just as bad, maybe worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only "licensed" when they want it to be...

      I am "licensed" to listen to this music.. But wait.. only as long as I have the "physical media", which if it is broken I have to "relicense". Bar some rather progressive services run by those other than traditional music publishing companies (those big internet bullies the music/film companies hate boo hoo!) - if I buy content to download - I can listen to it one device, but will have to buy it again to listen to it on another device, I have to buy it again. Am I buying a license to listen to it, or the downloaded bits? Begging for sympathy for the music/movie companies when stressed by governments, or the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon isn't going to wash with me. The music companies have been raking it from people, paying actual musicians a pittance, and suing minors - they deserve no sympathy if their business model falls flat on its face. Goodbye EMI, hello Spotify.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Only "licensed" when they want it to be...


        If what the music industry sold me was a real honest to good license, it wouldn't be a problem. The issue is that they want to sell me manufactured goods under the guise of a license and use what's best for them and worst for me on both parts of the deal.

        If the music industry wants to get a sympathetic hearing, they're first going to have to listen to consumers with a sympathetic ear. Does this mean indies get trod under foot by fighting giants? Yes it does. Unfortunately, there's no way to stop that. I know for damned sure the industry proposals won't help them.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I think I prefer Google's possible cosying with the current government to Microsoft's definite manipulation of the previous one.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Big tech companies promote "copyleft"? That's new to me.

    Also, Heath: "The engine room of any intellectual property is that a licence covers transfers of value."

    You *never* transfer value. You transfer goods. Which are valued differently by the participants in the transaction.

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: Big tech companies promote "copyleft"? That's new to me.

      Really. Content scrappers like Google hate copyright, they have an army of paid shills that attempt to undermine copyright at every turn. Whether its bloggers, or the Berkman Center, Public Knowledge, or the EFF.

      Currently they are getting 1.5 million DMCA takedowns a week, a year or so ago they were complaining that the cost of 5 million takedowns a year on youtube was costing them $500 million. Google has a major cost benefit in undermining copyright.

      1. Daniel Staple

        Re: Big tech companies promote "copyleft"? That's new to me.

        The EFF is not a function of Google and predates it by some time.

      2. ysth

        Re: Big tech companies promote "copyleft"? That's new to me.

        You are making the same error that the article made. Copyleft is not the opposite of copyright, it is copyright used for a particular kind of purpose.

        And I get the feeling there is general ignorance of RMS's positions on *non*-software IP - something I'd like to see change.

  9. Sam Liddicott

    So... Andy Heath thinks that after we've paid for the music we have to pay again to get the value out of what we paid for...

    Doesn't he realise people pay for the music SO THAT they can upload it to their google music service and then play the music they already paid for.

  10. Murphy's Lawyer

    Potential investors believe the UK "government hates copyright", according to Heath

    Government does not hate copyright. Government is very fond of copyright, ie a temporary, limited monopoly designed to promote science and the arts and benefit society as a whole.

    What Government is rightly suspicious of is:

    - people who claim that copyright is an inalienable/human right (it isn't)

    - people who demand that copyright terms are extended indefinitely (which would damage human civilization)

    - idiots who think copyright is a licence to print money (only sometimes, and only if you're smart enough)

    Government also (surprise!) listens to people who actually pay [1] for music, films etc and then get told that it's illegal to make personal copies for when the disc starts to rot or gets scratched, and wonder what the point of paying for stuff in the first place was. It's not just about listening to big company bosses while week-ending on their expensive yachts, you know...

    [1] That's right, pay - as in the "yours to own on DVD" campaign run by Very Large Entertainment Companies. Not: "licenced to run on equipment that we dictate, which we can withdraw at any time, and if we think you've broken our 98-page T&C we'll sue your sorry arse into oblivion".

    1. John Lilburne

      Article 27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

      You also seem to be behind the times no one is concerned about someone making copies as personal backups, and they don't much care about you copying the shit you bought to multiple devices either.

  11. Tim Parker


    "The music industry had been able to tolerate private copying without compensation"

    That's mighty big of them, allowing us to take a back-up copy or play (usually solely) from a digital copy without paying out again. I wonder where I can send my immense gratitude ?

  12. Not Fred31

    And the head of the copyright unit of the European Commission....

    .... used to work as a lobbyist for the music industry!

    I look forward to an equivalent article on this... anomaly.

  13. nijam

    Creative industies - bollocks.

    The ones that are industries aren't creative. The ones that are creative aren't industries. The whole of the 'music business' exists to gouge consumers and creators alike, for example.

    What they're complaining about is essentially that their once-tame politicians are now listening to someone else as well.

  14. Potemkine Silver badge

    No kidding...

    "The music industry had been able to tolerate private copying without compensation "

    In France we pay a lot the music industry to have the right of private copy. We pay taxes on quite everything able to store data, except internal HDs, for an amount around 200 millions € per year. And we are not the only ones, see "Private copying levy"' on wikipedia.

    The music industry is a greedy one, exploiting artists and consumers, whining to keep its undue privilege. Let's nuke it and build something new.

  15. Colin Millar

    Why do pols and senior civil servants suck up?

    What do the following have in common?




    Lots of directorships for us down the line!!!

    Triples all round!!!

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