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April 1, 2004
Gmail and Copyright (or The Revenge of Moore's Law)
I'm a bit skeptical about Google's purported new 1GByte free email service that brings the power of Google to your email ("Gmail"). If it is a joke, it is brilliantly done with the knowing or unknowing assistance of the New York Times (reg. req.) among others (Google to Roll Out E-Mail Service). If it is a hoax, Google has even put out a diversionary April Fools message: Google Copernicus Center is hiring. Read the Gmail press release: Google Gets the Message, Launches Gmail. Read the Gmail about page: About Gmail.
This certainly looks real, and even if it isn't, the growing inexpense of storage means that it will be true eventually, probably sooner rather than later. I could say all sorts of things about what this means for the market and communications, but this is Copyfight, so let's talk about IP.
Traditional free email systems are extremely limited in allowed attachment size and maximum amount of email storage. Heck, it usually isn't enough for a single decent MP3. Slashdot published this story and there were a number of interesting posts regarding potential IP uses (abuses?) of such a system for filesharing (Google's Gmail To Offer 1GB E-mail Storage?). Some of the very first posts dealt with the issue (Re:Wahooo):
Many a true word in jest. I do not know exactly how the system will work, but there is enormous potential for abuse. Actually, just personal storage of large amounts of data is probably the least of the concerns. One could imagine a warez or porn distribution system based on small requests to a controlling site that then uses mail fowarding to deliver the content (thus pushing the bulk of the storage and bandwidth costs onto gmail).
Of course, there will be ways to deal with this, such as this suggestion (Re:Wahooo):
They say they'll give 1GB of storage space, but that doesn't preclude them from setting limits to attachment sizes and bandwidth usage.
True enough, but as storage and bandwidth costs drop, why would they necessarily want to? How big will the limits be? And, for a small premium, would you be allowed to get around those limits?
Moore's Law (and its similar derivatives) is a bitch for the copyright industry.
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