Copyright Infringement & the Real Meaning of “Google”

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Being the true search marketing professional that I am I have to admit that Google is my home page. The artwork that frequently adorns the Google logo adds a bit of welcome distraction as I start my workday. I seldom click on the decorated Google logo because the event the adornment is commemorating is usually very apparent. But last Thursday was different. When a colleague viewed the page before me and asked, “What happened to the Google logo?” I took a quick look and replied, “Some artist’s birthday probably.” I clicked on the logo and learned of the birthday of a Spanish artist I had never heard of. Little did I know what a firestorm Google would create (again) over a copyright issue.

Back in February Google had a copyright dispute go against them by displaying thumbnail images from an adult-oriented website in its image search results. And now the family of Joan Miro, the artist, is all up in arms about Google displaying his artwork without permission. They say copyright infringement – I say free publicity! Sure, displaying images and art without the creators or owners permission may be against the law, but forcing Google to replace the Miro art logo or remove some racy thumbnail images is short sighted. To maximize exposure and publicity, a better strategy could have been employed.

In the case of the Miro art Google logo I think it would have been wiser to let the logo run the entire day, commemorating the great artist. Many people, millions likely, could have been exposed to Miro’s work and inspired to learn more. The result could have been a huge surge in interest in the artist’s works, inflating values for art auction houses and collectors alike. Publishers could have been compelled to publish new editions of books devoted to Miro’s life and work. Limited edition prints, greeting cards, t-shirts, coffee cups could have flooded the market with profits being funneled to non-profit art outreach organizations. Then and only when interest waned should the family have brought to light the fact that Google did not have permission to the copyrighted art, if only to restart the free publicity machine and continue to reap the benefits. Marketers should embrace Google’s zeal to catalog every bit of information on the planet, and use it to their advantage.

According to, the word “google” was first used in the 1927 Little Rascals silent film “Dog Heaven”, to refer to having a drink of water. Movies are protected by copyright aren’t they? I wonder if Cabin Fever Entertainment, the owner of home video rights for the Rascals film, knows about all the free publicity?

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