What's Up With Microsoft's Attack on Google?

Rob Hof

That's the question roiling the blogosphere today, following a speech today (masterfully leaked in advance for maximum publicity) by a Microsoft lawyer to the Association of American Publishers, slamming Google's supposed flouting of copyright law. Google's copyright stance, not to mention its unapologetic attitude toward indexing books and posting commercial video clips despite protests by copyright holders, certainly deserve scrutiny and even criticism. But the legal issues are hardly so clear-cut as Microsoft's Thomas Rubin implies, and that's why Microsoft isn't coming off well as the day progresses.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt, Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, Cynthia Brumfield at IP Democracy, and even Microsoft's own Don Dodge think the software giant might have overstepped and stubbed its toe. Clearly, Microsoft meant to rally opposition to Google, but its bald attacks may end up convincing few people of Google's guilt besides those who are already convinced. As Cynthia puts it:

Although Microsoft’s attempt to exploit Google’s YouTube problems is understandable, it’s also slightly repulsive and reeks of desperation. The software titan is hoping to build itself up by tearing Google down, never a good long-term strategy for success. Microsoft might damage Google’s reputation in the short-term, but it’s highly doubtful that Google’s incredible usefulness, not to mention its solid legal footing, will slip over time.

In the meanwhile, Microsoft will still be Microsoft, still playing distant second to Google. I would argue that Microsoft has damaged its own reputation with this lambast, showing to the world how it’s willing to tear down rivals instead of building itself up. That’s just not classy.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.