Almost a year ago, LA Weekly freelancer Jeff Weiss broke the story of Google's unilateral removal of music blogs who were accused of posting unauthorized MP3s on the company's Blogger software.
Wrote Weiss on February 5, 2009:
Google, the bloggers believe, has quietly changed the methods by which it enforces its user agreement. Whereas in the past, a blog owner would receive a warning before a post's removal, Google is now simply hitting the delete button.
Nearly a year later, the company has renewed its efforts to take down offending sites, and yesterday issued a statement confirming this. "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," wrote product manager Rick Klau. "[If] this is the result of miscommunication by staff at the record label, or confusion over which MP3s are 'official' ... it is imperative that you file a DMCA counter-claim so we know you have the right to the music in question."
Weiss spoke with one frustrated blogger, Ryan Spaulding, about Google's take-down of his blog, Ryan's Smashing Life, even though he'd secured permission from the labels whose music he was posting:
"I'd received the label's press releases and followed their directions, spending my time and energy to promote their albums," explains a frustrated Spaulding. "By pulling down my post, they destroyed my intellectual creativity, the very same thing they're erroneously accusing me of doing. Say someone had linked to that post, or [blog aggregator] Hype Machine -- it's gone completely. If I go into my Blogger table of contents, it's gone. Not de-published -- gone."
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Music bloggers and those interested in free speech are outraged at the new policy, which shifts the burden of proof entirely to the bloggers whose sites have been removed. Bloggers learn of their sites' elimination when they vanish -- though they are given a warning -- and find all of their writing is gone. Sometimes this is five years worth of posts, and this happens despite the bloggers jumping through all the requisite hoops and securing permission from labels to post the MP3s in question.
Yes, the "offending" sites can file a "counter notification," and Google explains how to do this:
To file a counter notification with us, you must provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail -- not by email, except by prior agreement) ... Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is not infringing the copyrights of others. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether certain material infringes the copyrights of others, we suggest that you first contact an attorney. A sample counter notification may be found atwww.chillingeffects.org/dmca/counter512.pdf.
We'll keep you posted on any breaking news, but it seems pretty obvious that Google is breaking its own guiding principle to "don't be evil."