Anti-piracy measures could compromise free speech: Google's Scmidt

Warning about government plans to block access to illicit filesharing websites, Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, said the move could set a "disastrous precedent" for freedom of speech.

Interacting with newspersons following his keynote address at Google's Big Tent conference in London, Schmidt said Google would challenge attempts at restricting access to the Pirate Bay and other so-called "cyberlocker" sites that encourage illegal downloading.

Blocking access to such sites forms part of government plans to fight online piracy through controversial measures included in the Digital Economy Act.

"If there is a law that requires DNSs [domain name systems, the protocol that allows users to connect to websites] to do X and it's passed by both houses of congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it," he added. "If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it."

Schmidt, who is now Google's executive chairman last month after being chief executive for a decade, said website blocking was like China's restrictive internet regime.

"I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems," he said. "So, 'let's whack off the DNS'. Okay, that seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say 'I don't like free speech so I'll whack off all those DNSs' – that country would be China.