Hot Seat: Larry Page
Google isn’t just popular, it’s beloved. But its halo has been tarnished
by the company’s acceptance of the “safe harbor” offered by the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act. The law protects search engines from liability
when they link to pages that infringe copyrights. The catch: To gain
protection, they must remove offending links on request—which Google
gladly does, pointing instead to the request itself. Has the Web’s best
index compromised its mission? Google cofounder Larry Page explains. –
Google’s Compromising Position
WIRED: Why has Google chosen to seek safe harbor under the DMCA?
PAGE: There are a lot of nice things about the DMCA. It
protects us from liability. But we’ve taken a progressive approach by
directing readers to the complaint when a link is taken down. So people
who have issues with our removing a link, or who think it was removed
for the wrong reasons, can easily find out exactly what we’ve done and
Once a link has been removed, hasn’t the damage to your index
already been done?
Copyright exists to protect people’s creations and their right to profit
from them. If we don’t respect it, we’re going to discourage creation of
content, which is what we live on.
Your terms of service say you don’t screen sites before linking
to them and you don’t manipulate search results, which are generated by
software without human intervention. Doesn’t removing links on request
show that you can and do screen results?
DMCA requests don’t cause us to raise a page’s rank, which is what we
mean by manipulation. Out of the billions of pages listed in our index,
only a few may be removed in a week. When we receive a request, it’s
almost always because someone is violating the law. In most cases, the
page itself is going to come down, since the people who made the request
will go after the ISP that hosts the page as well. And as soon as a page
comes down, it’s removed from our index. So what would happen anyway is
just happening a little faster.
It sounds as though you assume that all allegations of
infringement are valid.
No, not at all. But when we’re notified of something, we have an
obligation to do the right thing. We need to be responsive to people’s
Could the DMCA be abused by powerful interests hoping to silence
critics or competitors?
That has happened, but not much. What concerns us more is that countries
are taking an increasingly active role in deciding which Internet
traffic can cross their borders. We have offices in places that may
decide, willy-nilly, that we’re liable for linking to the wrong sites.
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First published in Wired magazine (November, 2002)