In a Strathmore University auditorium modestly filled with guests, students and staff, Dr. Eric Schmidt spoke for exactly 12 minutes. Many of those present may have “googled” Schmidt and discovered that the man standing before them was the Executive Chairman at Google, and no. 138 on the Forbes Billionaires List.
Schmidt’s message was simple: every problem facing the world today can be solved by education. However in order to achieve this ultimate goal of having an educated citizenry, there must be empowerment. Schmidt argues that technology has and will continue to be a source of empowerment for individuals and therefore we must endeavour to have more innovation and connectivity. According to Schmidt, the best innovations have been those that solve old problems in new ways. He encourages innovators, inventors and developers to take advantage of Google’s existing platforms to build upon, customise and develop their own products and services that they will have full intellectual property rights over.
During the Q&A session, it was indeed refreshing to hear several students ask Schmidt IP law related questions focusing mainly on copyright issue. One concern raised was in connection with digital piracy and the role google plays in either encouraging or discouraging this vice. Schmidt’s response was that Google made the decision that it would not censor the internet and it would keep the internet open. However, Google wants to ensure that find infringing and/or pirated content is made as difficult as possible using the sophisticated algorithms that power its search engine. In the same vein, Schmidt was also put to task over the rise in cases of plagiarism and copyright theft that are facilitated by Google’s powerful search engine. Schmidt began by stating that intellectual property must be respected by all Google users and that all users must always properly attribute all their sources, especially those in the academic field.
Another interesting question was about Google’s ambitious plan to digitise the world’s books under the Google Library Project and the potential for copyright infringement. Schmidt explained that Google only scans and digitises books that have already fallen out of copyright and are in the public domain. However, if the book is still covered under copyright, Google approaches the concerned publisher to offer the book for sale online.
All in all, CIPIT was honoured to co-host this important event that touched on important issues both relating to IP law as well as information technology law. We look forward to working closely with Google through its national and regional offices to educate and empower our country on the importance and value of it’s peoples’ innovative and creative ideas.