The television industry should embrace technology companies and the open spirit of the Internet, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told a gathering of TV executives in Edinburgh, Scotland today.

"We are not your enemy and we want to help," said Schmidt, who delivered the annual MacTaggart address at the Edinburgh Television Festival. He stressed the need for cooperation between Google and the TV industry and refuted claims that Google works against the interest of content owners.

The remarks came just as Google announced its plans to launch Google TV in Europe next year, starting with the UK. The company's Internet TV platform launched in the United States last year, but has had underwhelming success.

Schmidt responded directly to criticisms commonly lobbed at the search giant from publishers and other legacy content companies. "We respect copyright," he told the crowd before outlining the measures Google has taken to combat piracy and copyright infringement. He cited the company's removal of copyright infringement-related terms from their search engine's auto-suggest feature, as well as the various tools made available for reporting copyright infringement.

Google's average response time to copyright infringement claims is four hours, Schmidt said. He touted the company's Content ID technology, which is used to automatically check audio and video clips against a large database of copyrighted material to determine if it's in violation of the law.

If audio or video hosted on YouTube is determined to be protected by copyright, it's up to the content owners to decide what to do about it. Some demand that it be removed immediately, while others would rather keep it up and earn ad revenue from it. Schmidt said he preferred the latter, but said the company respects the wishes of content owners either way.

"There is content behavior that none of us want to encourage," Schmidt said, adding that technology-oriented solutions should come before legal regulations, which have a tendency to stifle innovation.

He cited the example of Facebook, asking audience members to imagine if the social networking giant had to face similar regulations as the television industry. The result, Schmidt joked, would be different versions of Facebook for different regions and strict restrictions on "poking."

Rather than focusing on regulations, Schmidt said the UK government should strive to encourage innovation and that content businesses should learn to behave more like Web companies.

"The decisions made in the next year will determine the longterm health of your industry," Schmidt said.

Photo by Charles Haynes