The Idiots Interpretation

Traditional media and governments don’t seem to understand tech.

This year, German media outlets cried “foul” on Google for excerpting their stories in search results. You know, the results that point people back to the original story. They wanted Google to PAY for these excerpts.

Google stopped showing these results, and the traffic at these media outlets TANKED. Of course they did. So they begged to have their content excerpted again.

Now Spain is in the act, instituting a tax on Google for excerpts on its News search results. Google just announced that they will be pulling the results rather than paying the tax. I think we know what comes next.

With a move this boneheaded, some are speculating that surely there must be a reason for a law this idiotic. Is it a gift from the government to print media ahead of upcoming elections?

I personally vote for the far simpler “Idiots Interpretation.” Remember that this was also the year that France instituted the “Anti-Amazon Law.” This made it illegal to discount books and ship them for free. Amazon, which offered free shipping prior to the law, promptly began shipping books for ONE CENT.

Old Media and the Old World are united in the fight against progress and technology. If you think this is about preserving an old way of life, I would argue instead that it’s about preserving established channels of money-flow.

In similar vein, Spain has also shut down Uber, the popular ride-hailing company. A judge reached this decision after complaint from the Madrid Taxi Association, citing “unfair competition.” As in: Too convenient to use and not expensive enough.

In my trade, the fight is with Amazon, which has made reading more affordable and more accessible for readers — and more lucrative and more egalitarian for writers. And we see how vehemently the old guard has reacted to all of that.

The problem going forward is that those happy with progress are quietly enjoying its benefits, while those unhappy are lobbying politicians to keep things the way they were (which is to benefit inefficient players at some cost to consumers). I argue that we, as happy progressives, need to be aware of these issues and do more than simply vote with our wallets. We need to mock those enacting bone-headed laws and ridiculous taxes. We should mock those who are appealing to courts rather than appealing to customers. We need to point and laugh. Laugh until we cry.



24 responses to “The Idiots Interpretation”

  1. As a Spaniard I’m suffering first hand the idiots we currently have as a government.
    The so-called “Google Tax” or the banning of Uber are just two examples of how they fail to understand technology, social networks and current trends, and how the pledge to the lobbies.
    Given the incredible corruption state we are currently immersed, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the lobbyists are not the only ones benefiting from these laws.
    I can give you other examples of how they make it almost impossible for anyone (not even themselves) to comply with current technology related laws.
    The first, and probably most illustrative, example is the “Cookies Law”:
    There’s an European directive establishing the basis for the member states on this law. Most countries, like the UK, simply make you put a message in your website explaining how you use cookies, how the user can turn them off and the “Accept” button. Well, in Spain you have to do that BEFORE you actually send any cookie. That means that your web site must not send any cookie (yours or from any other source like AdWords) until the user has accepted cookies. This is so difficult to implement right now that almost nobody is complying, not even the government websites (only that from the personal data protection agency). That also means that no business in Spain can have a Facebook page, since you can’t control Facebook cookies but you’re responsible for them.
    If you check this site you’ll find that it’s sending 81 cookies, 76 of them from third parties. You’re fortunate of not being under the Spanish jurisdiction :)

    Well, that’s the kind of government we currently have. If they’re doing these to get more votes in the upcoming elections they will not get mine, nor probably the vote from anyone under 40.

  2. “Old Media and the Old World are united in the fight against progress and technology”.
    Is isn’t that they are specifically fighting progress or technology, the ONLY thing they do is protect their wallets. It’s like if you spent your entire life making good money selling tea, then someone comes out and sells coffee and you start losing money, do you 1. throw away the way you have made a living and go straight to coffee? ignoring what has served you well for a hundred years or 2. Fight by telling people coffee is bad and tea is good?. It is human nature to select option 2.
    We see this in every aspect of life, doctors who take forever to adopt new techniques, auto mechanics who do not work on hybrid cars, etc. You can even say the same of people stuck in dead end jobs who defeat themselves of their ambitions to write (myself included), no matter how possible it is for me to someday be a earning author, out of fear i stick with option 2, this job has served me well for years, will always be here, is safe and will take care of me when I am old. No wonder I fear writing, how much money would I need to make to be safe? Safe enough to give up a pension and medical? I am as bad as Hachette, lol.

  3. You are right about Google and Amazon, but Uber is a bad example. In Germany, Uber tried illegal practices and asked to change the law, after getting problems with justice. Perhaps this is normal in the USA, but we do not need this kind of start-up in Germany.
    “Too convenient to use and not expensive enough” – that is not the point. I do not know, how Uber treads their drivers in the USA or Spain, but in Germany they tried to dump all the risks on the drivers and paid them rewards to low to make a living from.

    1. If Uber dumps all the risks on the drivers and pays them too little to make a living, then I assume no one will choose to be an Uber driver, and that will take care of that problem. No need for the government to get involved.

      1. “… then I assume no one will choose to be an Uber driver” – You are right! They pay so little money here in Berlin (35 cents per kilometer), that they can not find enough drivers. Uber limited the service to weekends, you can not call a Uber-car on weekdays.

        1. So they pay too little to no drivers?

    2. Actually little of what you said is true or makes much sense….
      1. Germany never stopped Uber from operating, just threatened fines.
      2. The measure to stop Uber was repealed already, no decision has been made..
      3. If the law is wrong is your job to change it. You have a law saying only union taxi drivers can drive anyone, why can’t I drive someone? I would fight to change the law too.
      4. And your “in Germany they tried to dump all the risks on the drivers and paid them rewards to low to make a living from.” might make sense in Socailism or Communism, but in the free market who else is going to take all the risk? Every driver takes all the risk for driving. And the government doesn’t pay taxi drivers, they earn their own money.
      By the way, Uber is a car sharing service, the fact that people are doing it for a living is nice, but that is not what it was designed for. In America we LOVE when the common man finds a new way to make a living, perhaps in Germany you love when people are kept down.

      1. “I would fight to change the law too.” – Okay, fight for it. And if you win, the law will be changed. That is democracy. And under the new law you can start your business. That will be the second step, not the first.
        “perhaps in Germany you love when people are kept down.” – No, you are wrong. By the way, we do not have “Socailism or Communism” here. Just want to let you know this, because you seem to know nothing about Germany.

        1. Seems fair, since you obviously know nothing about Uber and yet, still ramble on about it.
          Germany mandates that half of a board of directors for a company be elected by the workers, not by the owners or investors. Workers determining the economy of others is a socailist idea.
          The Joint Welfare Association published a report on the regional development of poverty in Germany in 2013 titled “Between prosperity and poverty—a test to breaking point”. The report refutes the official propaganda that Germany has remained largely unaffected by the crisis and is a haven of prosperity in Europe.

          According to the report, poverty in Germany has “reached a sad record high”. Entire cities and regions have been plunged into ever deeper economic and social crisis
          So why is Germany stopping people from making a living? Why do they want taxi fares to stay high? Nope, the first sign of a socailist government is free health care to all, you guys passed that hurdle a long time ago. Like China, you can call yourselves Capitalist, but you are still closer to Socailism than most everyone else.

          1. Give me facts about povertiy: How high is the “sad record high” in Germany? And how high (or low) is it in the USA?
            And no, we do not have free health care for all. But it is affordable to get ill, it woud not push you into poverty.

          2. So why is Germany stopping people from making a living?

            The wrong kind of people are making the money?

          3. Terrance O’Brien, are you seriously saying Germany is again deciding who deserves to make money? They did that in the 40’s too.

  4. The problem is not with resistance to progress, but a tendency for governments to think wistfully of how they could make much better use of someone else’s money. Coupled with a mind-boggling lack of economic knowledge. *Of course* if something is taxed, the tax payer will find a way to pay less, and nobody likes being singled out for what seems like punishment. Even a slug figures out how to avoid a painful stimulus. A healthy economic ecosystem is where there is less zero-sum grabbing and more mutual satisfaction from exchange. Like indie publishing ;-) The happier my readers are the more they buy from me, and no coercion is required.

    1. Brilliant. Love the slug analogy. Stealing that.

  5. it’s all fine and dandy, when you have the money to spend.
    the eu is on the verge of economical collapse, it’s no wonder people are protecting their assets.
    then again, the us have a slight economical advantage from dino spirits (oil).

    1. Haha! “Dino spirits!” Brilliant.

      As for the EU’s economic woes, how much of that is from propping up small business owners at the expense of all consumers. Picking and choosing small groups of people to support with higher wages or higher cost of goods is a horrible way to stimulate the economy.

      1. Compared to the US government’s $700 billion bailout of the banks that crashed the economy, favoring small mom-and-pop businesses doesn’t seem all that bad.

        1. And didn’t GErmany spend 250 billion to bail out Greece? How did that help mom and pop?

          1. Again, you are wrong. Whole Europe spend 220 billion. The german share is 55 billion.

      2. True enough. Things don’t work on their own when they’re inferior in some way, either in efficiency or desire for the product/service or whatever. Infusing money into that can’t fix anything. It’s a bit like tossing a bird up into the air when it has a broken wing.

  6. If you think this is about preserving an old way of life, I would argue instead that it’s about preserving established channels of money-flow.

    Take away the money flow, and there is no old way of life.

  7. Depends on what you mean by progressive. If you mean “desiring and fostering progress in technology, science, the arts, and morality” then I’m in. :D

    I’ve come to the unhappy conclusion that politics isn’t mostly about money, it’s all about money. Even the good politicians can easily tell themselves that they need $X to keep their office and fight for their ideals, and so they need to satisfy group A, B, and C to get that money. Better some of their ideals than none, right? But in the end it just means that votes are for sale, often enough that $$$ = laws.

    Just look at the tax code and business regulations. All designed for a good reason, then changed to convey an advantage to certain powerful players.

  8. If something doesn’t make sense , it’s always about the money. It makes you wonder if maybe , just maybe they polluted all the water just so they could sell us bottled water. Granted, we do need government, but we don’t need politics!

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