I couldn’t help but pause over a recent headline I came across in my RSS reader, and while I can’t find the original post I scanned yesterday, a quick search brought this one up first from startuparabia, “Google, AT&T, Automattic and Twitter Executives Visit Iraq.” And they link their sources as Tech Generation Daily and Reuters. The TG Daily blurb reads like this:
Washington, D.C. – Bet you didn’t think of Google, YouTube, AT&T and Twitter as humanitarian campaigners, tirelessly fighting corruption and helping to build a more accountable society. But this week, executives from the companies, along with other high-tech firms, are visiting Iraq in a trip organised by the US State Department. The idea, said spokesman Robert Wood, is for them to offer “ideas on how new technologies can be used to build local capacity, foster greater transparency and accountability, build upon anti-corruption efforts, promote critical thinking in the classroom, scale-up civil society, and further empower local entities and individuals by providing the tools for network building.”
I don’t know about you, but the idea of Web 2.0 executives going into Iraq after a pretty blatant imperial occupation to rebuild the nation with these tools of liberation and control is not necessarily heart-warming or humanitarian in my mind. In suggests a new face of media, capital, and controlling the message, and I have to say that if Google were so humanitarian on premised on openness and the general good of society, than why the hell are they fighting the Internet Archive (which is the real deal) request for copyright indemnity? Why not help re-build this nation on terms of equity, access, and transparency? How does the US State Department feel about this issue?
Like Google Book Search, the Open Library’s collection consists of public-domain works, copyrighted books scanned with the permission of the rights-holder, and orphan works. It’s the orphan works that have the Internet Archive concerned. The terms of the settlement between Google and The Authors Guild indemnifies Google should the copyright holder for an orphan work turn up and sue the search giant for infringement. The Internet Archive wants this same protection.
“The Archive’s text archive would greatly benefit from the same limitation of potential copyright liability that the proposed settlement provides Google,” argues the Internet Alliance in a letter to Judge Chin. “Without such a limitation, the Archive would be unable to provide some of these same services due to the uncertain legal issues surrounding orphan books.”
Although the Internet Archive isn’t seeking to derail the settlement, which is supposed to be finalized in June, the parties involved have informed the group that they oppose its attempts to intervene in the case. The Archive promises to abide by the court’s May deadline for filing its objections, but believes strongly that it should be allowed to intervene as an affected party so as not to be put at a competitive disadvantage.
Nation-building always starts at home, and erecting a culture built in the image of an executive Web 2.0 is frightening in many ways, we are not free! And the consolidation of power, communication, and copyright into the image and hands of a few must be resisted.