Google: Allegations of a Disturbing Kind

June 11, 2018

In a pointed allegation, one online filmmaker cuts Google no slack for an unintended leak of his content. BBC News reports, “Google ‘Stole My Videos”, Says Film-Maker Philip Bloom.” Bloom, who expects to be paid for his footage, is understandably upset to see his hard work loose on the Internet. It seems an executive at Google used some 73 seconds of Bloom’s work in a thought-experiment video, called “the Selfish Ledger,” meant for limited internal viewing that was somehow leaked online. (How that person accessed the footage in the first place is unclear here.) Whether such internal usage, if successfully kept in-house, counts as fair-use seems ambiguous. Writer Leo Kelion tells us:

“The technology company used material from more than half a dozen of Philip Bloom’s films to make a provocative presentation about ways it could exploit users’ data in the future. Mr Bloom makes a living from selling rights to his footage, among other activities. Google insisted that it took copyright law seriously. It said that the ‘thought-experiment’ video had been intended to be seen by only a handful of people. It was made in 2016 by the head of design at X, Google’s research and development division.

Google added that the executive had now been reminded about its strict copyright rules. However, despite being aware of Mr Bloom’s claim since last Friday, the technology company declined to say whether it now intended to make a payment.”

I wouldn’t say either, if I were Google. It is hard to see, from the little information we have here, how much damage may have been done to Bloom or whether Google can be held legally liable. The clamor certainly cannot be helping their PR department, though, especially since folks were already criticizing the corporate video itself; The Verge called it an “unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering.” In fact, it was that Verge article that brought Bloom’s attention to the matter in the first place, Kelion writes. For its part, Google insists the “unsettling” video in no way represents their actual philosophy and, meanwhile, has reminded the responsible party of the importance of respecting copyrights. Bloom remains unsatisfied.

Cynthia Murrell, June 11, 2018

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