"Let Me Google That For You" Act Goes Before Congress

"Let Me Google That For You" Act Goes Before Congress

Let Me Google

A pair of U.S. Senators have introduced the "Let Me Google That For You" Act of 2014 to help reduce the cost of acquiring information from official government sources.

The National Technical Information Service, according to Bill S.2206, the "Let Me Google That For You Act" (seriously), "is tasked with collecting and distributing government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information and reports." But it was also established in 1950, decades before the advent of the internet, and according to a 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office, 74 percent of the reports added to its collection between 1990 and 2011 were "readily available" from other public sources. Furthermore, it lost an average of $1.3 million per year over each of the preceding 11 years, leading to questions of whether its "basic statutory function of acting as a self-financing repository and disseminator of scientific and technical information is still viable."

That's problematic in the eyes of Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Claire McCaskill of Missouri for one simple reason: Government agencies have to pay to access information on NTIS, the vast majority of which could be had for free from other online sources. And while their solution to the problem has a silly name, the intent behind it is serious.

Intended to "streamline the collection and distribution of government information," the bill states that the NTIS has compensated for its declining revenues by "charging other Federal agencies for various services that are not associated with NTIS's primary mission," and points out that that mission will be rendered increasingly irrelevant in the future by ongoing technological advances. In light of that, it calls for any critical functions of the NTIS that aren't already being handled by anyone else to be transferred to another section of the Department of Commerce, after which the NTIS will be abolished.

"No Federal agency should use taxpayer dollars to purchase a report from the National Technical Information Service that is available through the Internet for free," the bill states.

The "Let Me Google That For You" Act was submitted to the United States Senate on April 3 and has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Source: Library of Congress, via TPM

Correction: Senators Coburn and McCaskill were originally indicated as being from Texas. As the post now indicates, Coburn is an Oklahoma Senator while McCaskill hails from Missouri.

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Huh. While this may look like common sense, seeing ideas like this come from Congress makes me feel better. Good job senators. More bills like this and people will start liking you more.

Plus the name is charming. Nice choice.

Microsoft and Yahoo must be pissed that they didn't use their search engines as the name for it. Glad the government is catching on to modern technology, took them long enough.

The fact that this is coming from a pair of texas senators makes me suspicious.

I'm disappointed because I thought this was a law that forced congressmen to actually be informed about things they vote on.

Queue Google suing for unlicensed use of trademark.

delroland:
Queue Google suing for unlicensed use of trademark.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say their jurisdiction in copyright violation doesn't extend to government propositions that aren't using it commercially. :P

OT:
Yeah, as said prior, seems like common sense. I'm sure there used to be some merit of an internal system for information, but it's probably irrelevant now.

Worgen:
The fact that this is coming from a pair of texas senators makes me suspicious.

Andy Chalk:
That's problematic in the eyes of Texas Senators Tom Coburn and Claire McCaskill

Huh, didn't even notice that when I read the article. Coburn is from Oklahoma, McCaskill is from Missouri.

Ferisar:

delroland:
Queue Google suing for unlicensed use of trademark.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say their jurisdiction in copyright violation doesn't extend to government propositions that aren't using it commercially. :P

OT:
Yeah, as said prior, seems like common sense. I'm sure there used to be some merit of an internal system for information, but it's probably irrelevant now.

Actually, Google does have quite the cause to be pissed about this. Google, like a certain few companies who become so well-known for providing a certain service, has to worry about their trademark becoming genericized. If everyone starts using the term 'google' to refer to the act of using a search engine, then their trademark weakens and they lose their rights. This is what has happened to aspirin in Australia, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Jamaica, Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Google has already sent cease and desist letters about this in the past and has constantly urged the public to only use the term "Google" in reference to actually using Google, rather than just a search engine. This act, while an endearing name, might only help to further make Google generic.

Edit: Google would most likely want to insist the act be changed to "Let Me Search That For You."

GrinningCat:
Google would most likely want to insist the act be changed to "Let Me Search That For You."

It isn't relevant. It can't weaken the trademark if it isn't being used for commercial purposes. Google is a global brand. It's a part of the culture in every country with internet access. This is actually completely natural.

also i'm pretty sure it's specifically referring to google in this context

Adam Jensen:

GrinningCat:
Google would most likely want to insist the act be changed to "Let Me Search That For You."

It isn't relevant. It can't weaken the trademark if it isn't being used for commercial purposes. Google is a global brand. It's a part of the culture in every country with internet access. This is actually completely natural.

The weakening of a trademark towards becoming a generic word doesn't require someone else commercially using their trademark, otherwise they wouldn't be afraid of people using the term "google" in reference to search engines. This is why they always insist on using the word "searching" rather than "googling." This is why they've sent cease and desist letters. Trademarks are NOT copyrights and have different rules that follow them and Google being a global brand and every day getting inserted more and more into language is something that they're afraid of because sometimes being the world dominate product at something and having languages wrap itself around you is something that you don't want.

Just ask the trademarks that lost their rights because of this: Aspirin, Heroin, Zipper, Escalator, Thermos, Yo-Yo.

Google goes to great lengths to try and stop this from happening and they're right to want to not let it happen. For an example that might hit closer to home, Nintendo extensively marketed the term "game console" so that neologism wouldn't erode their trademark. Again, genericisation doesn't have to and doesn't primarily come from commericial purposes and in fact comes almost exclusively from having the exact market dominance on a population that Google has. This is not copyright; this is trademark.

Where are those Senators from again? http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=senator+coburn+mccaskill

Seriously though, as someone who uses NTIS, it is helpful to have a single central repository for all federal reports. Most federal agencies have never heard of search engine optimization so just searching with the "site:.gov" operator doesn't usually cut it. Yes, they charge money for the service, but it's cheap compared to most commercial databases.

GrinningCat:
The weakening of a trademark towards becoming a generic word doesn't require someone else commercially using their trademark, otherwise they wouldn't be afraid of people using the term "google" in reference to search engines. This is why they always insist on using the word "searching" rather than "googling." This is why they've sent cease and desist letters. Trademarks are NOT copyrights and have different rules that follow them and Google being a global brand and every day getting inserted more and more into language is something that they're afraid of because sometimes being the world dominate product at something and having languages wrap itself around you is something that you don't want.

[snip]

That's hilarious. This is a straight quote from that first link of yours, from the Google blog:

Example: "I googled him on Yahoo and he seems pretty interesting."
Our lawyers say: Bad. Very, very bad. You can only "Google" on the Google search engine. If you absolutely must use one of our competitors, please feel free to "search" on Yahoo or any other search engine.

Now I don't know the author of that blog post personally, so he could be a great guy, but I have never had a stronger urge to flip someone off in my life. The global monopoly that is Google, an entity that practically controls the flow of information throughout the entire world, and they're getting pissy because people are using their name wrong. This is the world we live in. Brilliant.

Has anyone considered the fact that a lot of stuff on the internet isn't exactly........accurate?

Lunncal:

Now I don't know the author of that blog post personally, so he could be a great guy, but I have never had a stronger urge to flip someone off in my life. The global monopoly that is Google, an entity that practically controls the flow of information throughout the entire world, and they're getting pissy because people are using their name wrong. This is the world we live in. Brilliant.

Yes, because if a Trademark becomes generic then the individual or company that holds it loses the rights to it. So if Google became sufficiently generic Microsoft could rename Bing "Google 2.0" and Google wouldn't be able to stop them.

Yal:
Huh, didn't even notice that when I read the article. Coburn is from Oklahoma, McCaskill is from Missouri.

Yes, thanks to everyone who pointed that out, neither Senator is from Texas and reviewing the source material and the bill, I have no idea how I got the idea that they were. Furthermore, I am well aware of the irony and it is killing me.

Lunncal:

Now I don't know the author of that blog post personally, so he could be a great guy, but I have never had a stronger urge to flip someone off in my life. The global monopoly that is Google, an entity that practically controls the flow of information throughout the entire world, and they're getting pissy because people are using their name wrong. This is the world we live in. Brilliant.

They are afraid of history releating itself. Do you know elevators? sure you do. do you know that the actual word is lift? elevator is a brand of lifts that got so popular everyone was using them and people just said "ill use an elevator" when they meant to say "ill use a lift". reminds you of something? the exact situation google is in. the result was that elevator became a generic word and the company lost trademark. This is one of the rare cases when its actually possible to loose trademark (not suing others using it, however, is not going to make you loose one despite what idiots at King.com says).

I dunno; the idea of a central repository of double-checked and verified technical information, as opposed to relying on whatever site happens to come up first on a Web search, sounds like the better option. If the system behind it is laughably inefficient, they should certainly make an effort to fix that, but shutting it down entirely because "we can just google it and blindly trust whatever comes up" may be going too far.

 

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