Court: Google isn’t liable if your name turns up near something you don’t like

Have you ever heard of a Wisconsin woman named Beverly Stayart? Unless you follow semi-obscure legal cases or live in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the answer is probably no.

Stayart is a middle-aged woman who describes herself on her Tumblr page as the “CFO and Director of Business Development for Stayart Law Offices.” For years now, her name has popped up alongside listings for drugs such as Cialis and links to websites hosting malware in search results on various search engines (including Alta Vista, Yahoo, and even AdultFriendFinder) as an apparent result of search engine optimization algorithms and auto-complete. As a result, she’s pursued lawsuits against these companies, arguing that they have violated her right to privacy by misappropriating her name and serving up ads or auto-suggesting search terms around her name.

So far she’s lost at every turn. Her latest case is against Google, and it argues that her name has been misappropriated because searching for “Bev Stayart” on the search engine brings up “Bev Stayart Levitra” in Google’s auto-suggest algorithm. (Levitra is an erectile dysfunction drug.)

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Why YouTube is Launching a Music Service

This post is in partnership with Evolver.fm, which is the first publication for music fans that’s dedicated to music apps. The article below was originally published at Evolver.fm. A Bloomberg report that Google would launch a “Spotify killer” gained credence on Tuesday with Fortune’s report that YouTube — a division of Google — is in fact working on a subscription service, according to unnamed sources at Google and in the music industry. Notably, this latest report refers to YouTube as the one to launch this service, not Google. What’s the difference? Doesn’t Google own YouTube? Well, yes — but YouTube is already by far the most popular source of on-demand music in the world, whereas Google Music is just one player in the music locker game. The kids think YouTube is a music service, and the breadth of its catalog might even be so huge as to be bad for music, in the sense that companies like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, MOG, and Muze, which pay higher per-song royalties than YouTube does, have a hard time competing with all the free, on-demand music on YouTube — not just on their own, but in terms of powering apps, too. As if it isn’t enough to compete with P2P networks, now, the legitimate services have to compete with YouTube, too. (MORE: Revenue Up, Piracy Down: Has the Music Industry Finally Turned a Corner?) Thus, my theory: YouTube has to launch a music subscription, even if it loses money. If it doesn’t, some of the labels and publishers who currently authorize YouTube to play music will walk, and that would hurt both Google and YouTube. YouTube’s official statement to Fortune is telling: ”While we don’t comment on rumor or speculation, there are some content creators that think they would benefit from a subscription revenue stream in addition to ads, so we’re looking at that.” Surely, they do in fact think that getting paid more money is better than being paid less. That’s their job. With a YouTube music subscription, they would get paid more per stream than they

Apps Are Important

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I had a little bit of time to play with the Chromebook Pixel today and I’m a regular user of the Acer C7, a $199 machine that is wildly underpowered but good enough on a bad day. I really like the concept and I really like ChromeOS – it’s a solid way to get a little browsing done, say, in a cyber cafe or hotel bar. It isn’t, however, an OS.

As Linus Torvalds notes, the Pixel is an amazing piece of hardware and it makes you wonder just what other laptop manufacturers are thinking. It’s pricey, sure, but the touchscreen works well, the display is striking, and the styling is on par with the MacBook. Even MG (the G stands for Grumpy) liked it, and he doesn’t like anything.

But then there’s the problem of apps. Torvalds writes:

I’m still running ChromeOS on this thing, which is good enough for testing out some of my normal work habits (ie reading and writing email), but I expect to install a real distro on this soon enough. For a laptop to be useful to me, I need to not just read and write email, I need to be able to do compiles, have my own git repositories etc..

The creator of Linux, the paragon of pure computing, wants to install a “real distro.”

Ouch.

What the Chomebooks can’t yet do is run real applications. I’m currently dual-booting my C7 so I can install Skype on Ubuntu and you get this sense, once you’re in a real environment, that ChromeOS is like one of those “pre-OSes” that they used to stick on laptops so you could browse the web and watch movies without booting into Windows. It’s not all there.

That’s fairly easy to fix: allow vendors to create real apps for the platform. After all, Google is the “open” company, right? There should be a way for me to jackhammer Skype and Audacity into the ChromeOS environment. After all, a beautiful big screen is useless when all you open on it is Gmail.

Apps matter. As much as everyone clamors that Windows Phone and BB10 will thrive, they can’t do it without lots and lots and lots of apps. They can’t win without a dedicated developer base and groups of users who go out of their way to learn programming just to program for their favorite platform. While web-based apps are fun, in theory, we’re just not there yet in terms of real value. In the uncanny valley of application programming, HTML5 and attendant technologies are too stiff and jerky, like the humans in the first Toy Story movie. We need a few more years to bake them into real usability.

Until then, we’re stuck turning silk purses into sow’s ears (or, depending on your opinion of Linux, silk purses into penguins). I can’t, for example, recommend that my Mom pick up a Chromebook because she’ll immediately hit a brick wall when she wants to, say, Skype my in-laws. We can regress the argument down to “Well, they can use Google Hangouts” but that doesn’t solve the problem. In human-computer interaction, there should be more than one way to do something. That way, I’m sad to say, is through the introduction of a full SDK.

Google Is Building A Same-Day Amazon Prime Competitor, “Google Shopping Express”

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Google is stealthily preparing to launch an Amazon Prime competitor called “Google Shopping Express.” According to one source the service will be $10 cheaper than Amazon Prime at $69 a year and offer same-day delivery from brick-and-mortar stores like Target, Walmart, Walgreens and Safeway (though no specifics were mentioned by our sources).

When and if it launches, the product will be a competitor to Amazon Prime, eBay Now, Postmates’ “Get It Now” and even smaller startups like Instacart.

We’re hearing that the project is being run by Tom Fallows, an e-commerce product manager at Google, and is an effort to focus Google’s e-commerce initiatives. Google Wallet and Google Shopping need a focal point, and serving as a “store shelf” to big-name retailers could be that in. Google has been scrambling for a way to capitalize on its advantages in the space — the fact that it’s arguably one of the first places people visit when they want to find a product — for a while.

If the Google Shopping Express service debuts publicly, and we have no reason to think that it won’t, this would mean that the company could capitalize on its recent acquisitions of both BufferBox and Channel Intelligence to dominate the online-to-offline retail market. Google could possibly use its BufferBox delivery lockers to facilitate the ease of shipment — like what Amazon has been testing in Seattle, New York and the UK. It could use Channel Intelligence’s data-management platform to coordinate sales and delivery.

While we know that Google employees are now dogfooding the service, we have little information as to how partnerships are handled and how subscribing works. You know where to find us if you do.

Microsoft: We Will Continue Our Scroogled Campaign “As Long As Google Keeps Scroogling People”

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Despite rumors to the contrary, Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign is long from over. Earlier today, a number of publications picked up on a comment by Bing Search Director Stefan Weitz who told KQED that the campaign is “about finished.” Now, however, a Microsoft spokesperson has told us that this is not true and that we should “stay tuned for the next chapter.”

Here is the full statement from Microsoft:

“Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people. We know Google doesn’t like it when the facts come out. Chapter two of the consumer education campaign has shown people care about their privacy. More than 3.5 million people visited scroogled.com, and nearly 115,000 people signed a petition asking Google to stop going through their Gmail. Stay tuned for the next chapter.”

The Scroogled campaign, which alleges that Google is reading your email and focuses too much on paid placement in its Google Shopping results, started last November and is one of Microsoft’s most aggressive attempts to paint Google’s services in a negative light. It’s not clear how successful the campaign has been so far, but as Weitz told me last month, he doesn’t believe that a campaign that just focuses on features would be enough to convince users to switch search and email providers. Google, Weitz argued, “is a habit” for most people and Microsoft wants to use this campaign to get people to stop and think about their choices.

Given that it’s not over yet, we will surely get to see more gems like this in the near future:












Google offers searchable map of all white space spectrum in the US

If and when White Spaces networks become a major success story, it will be a very well-organized one. Internet-capable devices will get online by accessing the empty airwaves in unused TV channels, and they’ll avoid interference with actual broadcasts by connecting to databases that keep track of all available spectrum.

Google today began a public test of a White Spaces database to help make this a reality. Google isn’t the first to operate one of these databases, but it’s done so with a very Google-like approach. In addition to letting white space devices identify available spectrum, Google unveiled a browser-based tool that lets anybody find out what spectrum is available nearby.

It’s not necessarily useful if you don’t live in one of the few areas where white spaces networks have been built out, but it offers an interesting look at how TV broadcast spectrum is used across the country, and it’s a bit simpler and more user-friendly than your typical spectrum maps.

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Germany wants Google to pay for news citations, passes re-publishing bill

The lower house of the German parliament, known as the Bundestag, has approved a new bill that would require search engines to pay a license fee for re-publishing content longer than “individual words or short excerpts.” The bill passed by a vote of 293 to 243, with three abstentions.

However, the law does not define exactly what such a “snippet” would entail. For the law to take effect, it would need to be ratified by the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat. By all accounts, this bill is a watered-down version of what had originally been lobbied for by the German publishing and media industry.

Not surprisingly, Google has opposed this law and proposals like it in neighboring France.

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