It’s a rich time for Google: Ad revenue is up, the Chrome division will soon launch a new version of its Chromebook, and YouTube still receives hundreds of hours of video every single day. Check out Google SVPs Sundar Pichai and Susan Wojcicki in conversation with Walt Mossberg at the D: All Things Digital conference.
for years has dominated Internet search and advertising, and in recent years it has rapidly diversified with two operating systems, a browser and manifold apps. But concerns about copyright violations and invasions of privacy are frequently raised in discussions about the Internet giant.
The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg had a chat with two high-ranking Google executives: Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president, advertising, and Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome and Google apps. Edited excerpts of their conversation follow.
MR. MOSSBERG:Ari Emanuel [co-chief executive of talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment] last night about 22 times referred to you guys as basically unwilling to stop violating the copyrights of the kinds of people he represents. He said Google is able to filter out child pornography but is not willing to filter out unauthorized use of copyrighted material. How do you respond?
Asa Mathat/All Things Digital
SUSAN WOJCICKI: ‘Identifying which copyright belongs to whom is very complicated.’ Above, Susan Wojcicki Sundar Pichai
MS. WOJCICKI: I think he was misinformed, very misinformed. We have done as much as we possibly can. We do not want to be building a business based upon piracy. We want to be able to work with the content owners. We want to make sure that the business is built upon content and content owners who want to have that content distributed across search and YouTube.
We invested a huge amount in something called Content ID. The content owners give us information, either video clips or audio clips from their catalog that they have rights for. Then they can make a decision: if they actually want to keep it up and monetize it, which a lot of them do and make a lot of money from, or they can pull it down. And if they pull it down, then we immediately take it down. That’s their choice.
The problem is that identifying which copyright belongs to whom is very complicated. It’s not like child porn. Child porn, you see it, you know it’s child porn. When I see a piece of copy, I don’t know if you own the copyright or you own the copyright. It’s a complicated business.
MR. MOSSBERG: If somebody in this room uploads half an hour of some kind of comedy, do you have some kind of system that says, well, this seems like it’s copyrighted?
MR. PICHAI:It’s a quality issue, like voice recognition. The engineering behind the content system is fairly impressive. And it keeps getting better. What’s important to understand is it’s tough to scan through a video and know for sure that it’s copyrighted and who exactly owns the copyright. We’ve spent $30 million on this project alone. And we’re committed to improving it.
MS. WOJCICKI: The problem is this is much more of a business issue. Take a bunch of content, take a bunch of lawyers, and ask them who owns which content. I’m sure the lawyers won’t agree. There can be different components within the same show owned by different people. We can solve all the technical parts. But at the end of the day, in order to know what to do with that content, we need to hear from the content owner.
MR. MOSSBERG: How come you have the only actually relevant ads that I ever see on the Internet? I understand you get signals from me that maybe some other kinds of advertising around the Web don’t get because you know what I’ve typed into the search box. But why does targeting of advertising overall on the Web suck so badly?
MS. WOJCICKI:When you’re searching for something, you are interested in finding out about things right then and there. We’re able to actually match user advertisers all over the globe with you specifically at that moment. No matter what you search on, no matter how obscure it is, we have advertisers for it and they are going to be able to show you something that was relevant.
MR. MOSSBERG: But what about the display ads all over the Web? I’ve been on the Web almost all day for however many years there’s been a Web, and even now I don’t see things I’m interested in buying or doing.
Following their session at the D10 Conference, Susan Wojcicki and Sundar Pichai shared a few of their personal Google stories with AllThingsD’s Katherine Boehret.
MR. PICHAI: The personalization of advertising actually hasn’t happened. It’s been in the very early stages of evolution. Advertising you see on the Web is primarily solely based on IP and basic cookies. There are important trade-offs to be had here. But I think as we understand more about users in a responsible way, this experience can evolve to be much more user-centric and much more pleasing.
Mobile phones are going to be huge here. It gives us a lot more signals, your location, time of the day, the place you are in, et cetera. And I think all this will result in better advertising, which users will see.
MR. MOSSBERG: Let’s talk about the Chrome and Android operating systems. Why do you have two operating systems?
MR. PICHAI: Android is extremely successful. Its share of smartphones is growing. We have tablets planned as well.
As we built Chrome, and we observed people on their computers, in many instances people just spent all their time on the browser. There was an opinion that you could design a fundamentally new way of computing built around that. The computing is actually in the cloud. The applications are in the cloud, and the data is in the cloud.
Chrome OS is the only computing model niche where you can deploy a thousand devices, and the device reaches the end user without IT ever touching it. And from a Web console, you can manage, you can deploy apps, you can delete apps. And they’re all always running the same version. The fundamental model of computing is very, very different here. To us, it’s a user choice. I think it’s important.
A version of this article appeared June 4, 2012, on page R8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Problem With Copyrights.