Responsibility and search engines

  I read an intriguing defense of not regulating search engines, and by extension the internet today.  I disagree with it in part, because search engines are getting a free ride to riches, and ignoring their responsibilities in the process.  I’m not an expert, but it seems like a logical extension of current law to require search engine owners to ensure that they are not promoting stolen or plagiarized intellectual property.  I can hear the cries of foul already.  Can you imagine how much slower information would be placed on a search engine if you required them to ensure its authenticity and ownership?

   Why shouldn’t that be a requirement though?  We require newspapers, televisions, private foundations, et al to ensure that anything they use of an intellectual nature be vetted, and credit be given to the original authors of that material.  Further, there are a host of laws on the books that punish those who steal intellectual property or plagairize the work of others. 

   It occurs to me that the defense must be, well, we are only listing it.  Well, that makes you a conspirator, and open to every statute under the RICO act.  You have knowingly entered into an organized venture to defraud others of a valuable commodity that they own, and you should be punished.  If you list stolen proerty that has value on a search engine you own, then you have profited from that listing, and have damaged the original owner of that property by not ensuring he recieves the renumeration for the work.  

   Seems to be sensible to me.  If something I own causes damage to something else, I am liable for that damage.  My example is if my dog bites you, it’s my resonsibility.  This plays out all over the country everyday as dog owners are punished for damage their animals perpetrate.  Why not search engine owners when their search engines are used to profit off works stolen from others?

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One Response to Responsibility and search engines

  1. Thank you for the ping back, my brother. It made a noticable difference in the antisocialist’s blogstats. You have quite a devoted readership, you know, and with good reason.

    I would not really say, as you do above, that “search engines are getting a free ride to riches” – insofar as search engines are, after all, providing us all with quite a service. “Free” means they’re not doing anything for their money. But that’s hardly the case. Search engines have absolutely revolutionized the whole information-gathering process, the world over, and websites of all shapes and sizes benefit from search engines at least as much as search engines benefit from websites. It’s a reciprocity, to be sure, and it’s the elegance of capitalism writ large. The service that search engines provide came about because search engines fulfill something we all want: access to instant information. Thus, the websites benefit from it because it provides them with exposure, often times for free.

    Misrepresentation and outright fraud, however, is a whole other ballgame, and the antisocialist certainly doesn’t believe that anybody, search engine or not, should be able to get away with these crimes. Punishing search engines if they are guilty of lying or fraudulent action is not even in the same league as “government must categorically regulate search engines.” Which is exactly what that jackass was saying.

    But as Saint Dominic always said: “O feelie mi boni bellie dominus phumbiscum bennie selling all his dominos.”

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