After a frenzied build up, Pope Francis visits the US this week, ready to hear all kinds of confessions and provide spiritual guidance.

He will be warmly received by potentially hundreds of thousands, and Googled by many millions of onlookers as he addresses the United Nations and, to end his visit in true rock star fashion, headlines Madison Square Garden.

 

With such a hectic schedule, the Pope is unlikely to stop by the Google office in Manhattan (even though it isn’t too far from MSG… just saying, Pontiff!) Even if he did, there’s little chance that he would receive any kind of confessions, although we could suggest plenty of sins against artists and intellectual property that might be worth a mention.

Rather than specific sins, though, let’s have a little fun at the search giant’s expense (hey, they can always downrank us in retaliation) and see how they stack up, in copyright terms, on each of the 7 deadly sins.

Google and 7 Deadly Sins Against Copyright

Envy

It’s hard to imagine a multi-billion dollar company being too envious of anyone else, but Google certainly has a green streak that drives its behind-the-scenes business dealings. Envious of the right of creators to have their voices heard in DC, for example, the tech titan has redirected a lot more of its policy budget towards lobbying in recent years. As we see from the rise of tech populism, the green-eyed monster is worth significant investment of greenbacks, to ensure that policy making goes Google’s way.

 

Gluttony/Greed

It isn’t enough to have the world’s most well-known search engine, apparently, as Google is facing major antitrust allegations in Europe for placing its own products and services above competitors. It’s easy to manipulate the rankings for your own ends, of course, but when it comes to curbing illegal sites that’s just not a feasible goal (see also ‘Sloth’).

Lust

There’s nothing that Google loves more than data and the company’s relentless quest to squeeze every last drop of what we do online, from what we search for to the places we visit, drives much of its business. A lack of finesse in managing that data could cause the company major problems at home and across the Atlantic, however, if some pending legal decisions on data transfer from the EU go against Facebook (and, by extension, against similar models used by Google ). As a corollary, isn’t is odd that Google can gather and process this data so that it knows everything important about an individual, but when it comes to identifying unlicensed content it falls at the first hurdle?

 

Pride

It comes before a fall, as everyone knows, but we’ll have to wait to see if Google-owned YouTube is about to take a tumble with its confusing Music Key product. Prominent artist-rights activists like Zoe Keating have already raised awareness about YouTube‘s prideful take-it-or-leave -it contracts for the service, and now there seems to be something shady about the licensing deals being arranged to get it off the ground. Apple showed some humility earlier this year by backtracking on its decision not to pay artists for streams on Apple Music by free trial subscribers; perhaps Google could swallow its pride and actually pay artists a fair per stream royalty, if and when YouTube Music Key finally launches?

 

Sloth

This tends to be laziness, but let’s say Google’s heel-dragging on punishing piracy sites in its search rankings has been an intentionally slothful process. Even when major names like The Pirate Bay and keywords like bittorrent finally taking a hit last year, plenty of piracy alternatives rise up the rankings in their place. Given the years it took to get even the most basic action on those main sites, it seems unlikely we’ll see swift action taken to remove content theft sites from its listings entirely.

 

Wrath

Many online operations feel the pain of Google’s wrath when an algorithm change torpedos their site traffic, except for most piracy sites, of course, who tend to rely upon those search visitors as a primary source of business. The Wall Street Journal also used the term to describe Mountain View turning its wrath on Expedia last year, showing that there seems to be no size limit on a downgrade, but having standards on intellectual property is entirely optional.

 

It’s probably too much to hope that Google has an epiphany on intellectual property rights during the Papal visit but, as we all know, the Almighty moves in mysterious ways…

(No, Team Google, we weren’t referring to your employer as a deity in that last reference.)