This is an anecdote (as opposed to a scientific study) of the flow of information through the Internet. The story began for me this morning with my usual perusal of headlines from my RSS feeds. Since I use Google Reader, I tend to follow the alphabetical ordering of those feeds. The headline that caught my attention was from the Financial Times feed (one of my favorite sources for general, as well as financial, news): "YouTube video embarrasses Google." Since I can never resist an opportunity to criticize Google, I figured that this was a story I had to read!
The first thing I noticed was that this story was not filed from Silicon Valley or from any other source in proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead it was filed from Paris (as in France, rather than Texas) by Emmanuel Paquette. Since I had previously gotten on Reuters' case, when they were reporting from Bangalore about the risk of my cat (in the United States) eating tainted food, I was curious about why a Silicon Valley story was being filed from Paris. Fortunately, Mr. Paquette was the sort of journalist (one of the last remaining?) who know how to clarify this matter in his lead paragraph:
A 21-year-old American has posted a video on YouTube explaining how to use Google’s search engine to download music and video games for free, Les Echos, sister paper of the Financial Times, has found.
In other words this was not a Financial Times story but one that FT had picked up from their "sister paper" in Paris.
This then led to my next question. By reading my sources in alphabetical order, I almost always read CNET before getting to the Financial Times. If this was news, why had it not been covered by CNET. I decided to I had better try feeding the name of the subject of Mr. Paquette's article, Jimmy Ruska (actually I just used the last name), to the CNET search engine. I discovered that most of the substance of Ms. Paquette's story had been filed on the CNET News Blog by Matt Rosoff on June 27! Rosoff, in turn, cited the "Wednesday Business Links" post from the coolfer blog (for "music and the industry"); and the relevant link was to a Slyck News post by Thomas Mennecke dated June 25.
At this point we could turn this into a story about what Mr. Paquette knew and when he knew it, but I think it is more important to cite that he did bring new material to his report. Most important is that he seems to be the one who actually tried to get a response from Google (and succeeded):
Matt Cutts, the engineer in charge of the quality of search results at Google, played down the effectiveness of the system. “The formula shown on YouTube is an attempt to find web pages containing a list of files including the word MP3,” he said.
“Nothing guarantees that such a search will find music files, for many web pages can contain the word MP3 without giving access to [music] content.”
More importantly, however, Mr. Paquette and his colleagues decided to see for themselves whether or not to take Mr. Cutts seriously:
Searches by Les Echos located many web pages containing music files that could be downloaded very quickly. It was also possible to access recordings of television programmes, films and video games.
Finally, the story provides a European perspective on this situation:
The London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry identified this use of search engines to make illegal file downloads early last year.
“We systematically send many warning letters and we do not hesitate to take legal action when necessary,” the Federation said. “But we do not comment in advance on action that we will or will not take.”
Last week a Belgian court made Europe’s first ruling that an internet service provider must block illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing by its subscribers when copyright is breached, according to the IFPI. Other European countries are expected to pass laws that will make ISPs responsible for stamping out exchanges of copyright material.
It is also important to note that the story does not provide specific information about the YouTube video at the heart of the story, probably because that might be construed as contributing to improper exchange of copyright material. Slyck News, on the other hand, has the link to the video itself. Finally, it what may simply have been a gesture of Gallic wit, Mr. Paquette wrapped up her report with a one-sentence paragraph:
Google’s share price rose 5.09 per cent to $544.49 by midday on Monday.
My guess is that this was just his was of saying plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!