This past week has been an abomination in PR for Google, starting with privacy upheaval in terms of Google Buzz’s automatic stalking…err following feature that added people you frequently IM and email without consent. Then came news that Google blog service Blogger deleted six of the biggest music blogs on its service, including their entire archives.
The blogs in question were I Rock Cleveland, It’s a Rap, Living Ears, To Die By Your Side, Masala and Pop Tarts. Each were blogs for introducing new songs and artists, more from obscure genres than mainstream majors kind of stuff. On the company blog, Blogger stated, “When we receive multiple DMCA complaints about the same blog, and have no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorized manner, we will remove the blog”.
The post stressed that the blogs had been emailed a notice from Blogger and were supposed to file a DMCA counter-claim, but many were calling foul saying they weren’t given enough warning to file such a claim. Also, according to an article in The Guardian, some said that they received said notices only after their sites and archives were wiped from the internet.
The process Blogger followed for handling the claims is where most of the criticism is coming from. For example, Bill Lipold, owner of I Rock Cleveland claimed that “everything I’ve posted for, let’s say, the past two years, has either been provided by a promotional company, came directly from the record label, or came directly from the artist. Even some of the past violations I’ve been served with fall into this category“. He also posted numerous example emails on Blogger’s post proving that he sought and was granted permission.
TMV are not saying all of the blogs were wrongfully deleted. Sure some of the sites may have had dubious legality, but what the industry has failed to highlight is that piracy is more than just BitTorrent. It is so a vast network of blogs and online communities that are purely for the distribution of music and film. There are so many blogs out there that infringe MP3s and albums, why start picking on ones that were actual blogs rather than simply share links?
If anything, proper blogs are more upstanding than Rapidshare sharing or a Livejournal community because of the promotional prospect they give. Not only were these large blogs amassing a large readership, but their entire archive of commentary, interviews and other original content is now lost forever.
The initial wrath of the actions prompted a frenzy on Twitter, trending “#musicblogocide2010” and it didn’t stop when in an update to the blog post Blogger recognized that they had deleted a blog (Masala) that didn’t receive any DMCA complaints whatsoever before the blog was removed.
It’s one thing to take a firm stance on cracking down on piracy, but this was just messy. The lack of communication, fact-checking and organization of handing out notices came back to bite Google in the ass. It proved little and only worsened the PR situation.
On the one side, Google were just doing their job and it is in within their TOS to take down blogs that are posting infringing material. However, this is a good example of the flaws in the burgeoning “three strikes” movement. Automated copyright detection systems are imperfect and in the blog’s case, are more damning than cooperative. The writer of Pop Tarts Suck Toasted complained that “in their DMCA take down letters they never inform you what the infringing MP3s are, forcing the writer to take down ALL the MP3s in the offending post whether they have the permission to post them or not“.
This also makes the counter-claim impossible because they don’t know what they are denying to have uploaded. Google has a voluntary approach, like ISPs do to the “three strikes” policy, but they should have gotten a better game plan before wiping out blogs if they weren’t sure of its standing. Shutting down sites that were sharing music legally will only further incense the consumers that still enjoy music legally, and enforce the file-sharer’s anarchic joie de vivre.
Google is making the same mistake the RIAA did, slamming hefty charges on a few fish out of the vast ocean of file-sharers and come across looking like a monster. Whether Google will continue to make a dent in the myriad of infringing blogs or if it’ll come crawling back with flowers and candy and reinstating the wronged blogs…it should be interesting to see where Google goes from here.
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