Google killed several music blogs this week -- wiping out years worth of archives -- because record labels lodged complaints that the blogs were violating copyright laws. There's some debate about that.
At issue is whether these blogs have posted MP3 song files in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. Google's Blogger Team sent out emails to sites including I Rock Cleveland, Marsala, Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, To Die By Your Side, It's a Rap and Living Ears:
We'd like to inform you that we've received another complaint regarding your blog ().
Upon review of your account, we've noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger's Terms of Service ().
Given that we've provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we've been forced to remove your blog.
Thank you for your understanding.
The Blogger Team
The owner of I Rock Cleveland wrote back: "I assure you 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."
Google has posted a description of its policy, telling bloggers that if they indeed have rights to the music, they need to file a DMCA counter-claim.
But I Rock Cleveland's Bill Lipold says he gets DMCA notices on songs he has rights to. The record labels have forged alliances with Lipold and others. They see the promotional value in getting new music out there. But the legal departments, it seems, didn't get the memo. Either that, or the bloggers are lying. Or they don't know what's legal and what's not. More from The Guardian:
Take the case of Masala, co-founded by Guillaume Decouflet in mid-2005. Together with his partners, Decouflet has introduced hundreds of thousands of readers to underground genres such as kuduro and funk carioca. Masala's writers weren't typical music bloggers, waxing lyrical about Neon Indian and the new Phoenix remix: mostly DJs, they shared South African electronica, Japanese dancehall, UK funky and Senegalese hip-hop. "We haven't been posting any Whitney Houston or anything," Decouflet explained.
He only recalls receiving one DMCA notice - ever - from Blogger. As this email did not name the offending song, he says he doesn't know what caused the complaint. Masala's bloggers responded to Google's email, Decouflet insists, but never heard back. That is, until their entire site - and more than four years of archives - were deleted this week...
Decouflet sounds weary. "Google is treating bloggers like Big Brother," he said. "Shoot first, ask questions after."
One of my colleagues who follows this stuff was shocked to hear that some of these "writing" blogs were taken down while flagrant pirate blogs still exist on Google's Blogger and Blogspot. Those sites post music and almost nothing else, sometimes entire albums. The Guardian says dozens of those sites are still up. Here's Techdirt's take on this:
... the real issue is how much pressure the DMCA puts on Google to act in this manner, and with things like ACTA being negotiated in secret with the aim of locking in the more draconian rules of such safe harbors, it will become increasingly difficult to fix that faulty aspect of the DMCA takedown process.
ACTA is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being discussed by the US, the EU and other countries, and it is being negotiated in secret, according to the New York Times:
Critics say the lack of transparency is highly unusual for a trade agreement with so many parties involved, especially since the deal could influence the workings of the Internet and affect hundreds of millions of people around the world.
"You'd think it was nuclear weapons kind of stuff, not intellectual property law," said Eddan Katz, international affairs director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns against regulation of the Internet. "The fact that there are 30 or 50 people sitting around a table deciding the laws of the world's nations, when there are major areas of disagreement, seems like a wholesale contravention of the democratic process."
Copyright infringement is copyright infringement. But secretive or confusing policies designed to crack down on it do nothing to encourage compliance or progress.
Apparently, it's still the Wild West out there. Have gun - will shoot.