“We’d like to inform you that we’ve received another complaint regarding your blog,” begins the cheerful letter received by each of the owners of Pop Tarts, Masala, I Rock Cleveland, To Die By Your Side, It’s a Rap and Living Ears. All of these are music blogs – sites that write about music and post MP3s of what they are discussing. “Upon review of your account, we’ve noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger’s Terms of Service … [and] we’ve been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding.”
Naturally, the letter doesn’t specify who the complaint came from—but it shouldn’t be the record labels. Why not? Because, according to Bill Lipold of I Rock Cleveland in a complaint to Google, “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.”
That’s right: many labels and recording artists don’t fear the
reaper Internetz—and have realized blogs are a powerful tool for promotion. In fact, they’re spending major money on attracting these very bloggers. You’d think that’d trickle down to the legal departments, but Lipold documents four times in the last year he’s received DMCA takedown notices for songs that he had explicit permission to post.
Rick Klau of Google responded to complaints last night, saying the bloggers in question could file DMCA counter-claims if they actually had permission to post the files. Which is great, if Google had a convenient DMCA counter-claim form, as it does a DMCA claim form (which includes a “good faith” checkbox: “I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”).
Instead, Google gives detailed instructions on how to complete a paper-and-snail-mail counter-claim (so they have no idea whether these bloggers would do that—and they have already taken down years of archives). However, step one is to “Identify the specific URLs or other unique identifying information of material that Google has removed or to which Google has disabled access.” Considering that the bloggers weren’t informed which song offended (if any—it could just be a cumulative crackdown), and the fact that the URLs are no longer accessible, a counter-claim might just be impossible.
Naturally, not all sites posting possibly copyrighted files, legally or illegally, have been affected, and not all of those taken down may be as innocent as I Rock Cleveland.
One spot of good news: years ago, I had a similar problem. For no apparent reason (not even a DMCA request), Google deleted my personal blog. All the archives were gone. I contacted Google, and they soon restored my blog entirely. So maybe the blogs aren’t gone (though the offending files may already be removed from servers).
What do you think? Can Google stop the music? Should there be some sort of penalty for record labels’ internal failures to communicate?
Photo by Nicole Marti