Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google Tax Now!

It's an odd thing about Google - corporately, their behaviour is relatively attractive. For instance, I'm writing this on software that is provided and hosted free of charge by Google. I'm an enthusiastic user of Google Apps, Chrome, Analytics and a variety of other services that they provide completely free of charge.

And what's more, though this post calls for measures that Google would oppose furiously, I don't suppose that they will do anything to delete it (though I'd be interested to see how 'Google Tax Now!' compares with the search engine rankings of my other posts?)

On the other hand, I think that my grandchildren will be paying for the investment climate that has allowed a company to spend on the scale that Google has without any direct pay-back from the customers.

And Google (along with Apple and Amazon) are now making an absolute fortune. Their success has allowed them to adopt a monopoly position and a bargaining stance that enables them to offer a very poor - almost blackmail - take-it-or-leave-it deal to authors, musicians and publishers.

Until there are dozens of competing iTunes / Google / Amazon type players that intermediate deals between users and producers in each of their markets, creators will not be able to take a fair share of the price that people are undoubtedly prepared to pay for a loosening of 'scarcity' in the supply of creative industries services.

Journalists can't say 'pay the rate that I ask or remove my site from your search' because there is only one game in town at the moment. It's not a question of how much you want to monetise your online content - it's a question of IF you want any money at all.

I don't think that a lot of the advocates of copyright reform - Billy Bragg for example - fully get this issue. They seem to be arguing that we should behave as though the market has evolved to become something that it currently isn't - something with weak intermediaries.

Like a lot of the left, we've almost totally gone to sleep on the question of monopoly and the way that it distorts markets unfairly.

An attack on the monopolistic aspects of modern capitalism should be the primary economic focus of the left as far as I can see. There are plenty of other aspects of the marketplace in 2010 in which the public interest would be served by a curbing of monopolies - there's even a centre-right communitarian appeal to such an approach!

We need to follow the French lead here: Google Tax Now!

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