Google managers should have expected to see that word used a lot to describe their actions had they not reversed a decision that might have forced 9to5google.com to change the publication’s name.
The story started when 9to5google.com, a site dedicated to covering news about Google products and services, noticed that the company’s ads stopped working. In talks with Google, 9to5google’s managers learned Google’s public policy team had decided “that after five years of publishing under the 9to5Google name, we have been violating their trademark.”
Later, Google got back to 9to5google and said the public-policy team had reviewed the situation and decided to again serve ads to the publication. Seems to be at least tacit approval of the site’s name. It’s difficult to believe otherwise.
After all, this is Google, the sworn enemy of patent trolls, the company that waged court battles against the globe’s newspapers and book publishers for the right to index their work and present blurbs to users. This was the search engine that was likely second only to Napster in helping people ferret out free, largely pirated, copyrighted music.
Years ago, it was Google employees who applauded when a visiting music executive lamented how the search engine helped people find unauthorized song copies.
Stewart Brand, former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, is the man credited with coining the term “information wants to be free.” But few did more to advance the ethos than Google. And now here is the hero of freetards everywhere picking on little 9to5google.com about its name.
The truth is, even before this incident, Google’s position on intellectual-property rights had grown murkier. Two years ago, The Hill called out the company for attacking patent claims of competitors while spending big to protect its own. According to the publication, Google spent more on patents than it did on research and development.
In this case, let’s hope that it wasn’t some PR executive who recognized that the initial call on 9to5google presented image issues. Let’s hope that someone higher up the command chain remembered what the company stands for to many in tech — still.