Yesterday, we posted that Blogger had rather surreptitiously shut down several popular music blogs. Today, Pitchfork is reporting that Blogger has issued a statement in its defence. In the statement, the Google-owned service explains its policy for enforcing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the controversial American copyright law), noting that when it receives multiple DMCA complaints about the same blog, and has “no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorized manner,” they will remove the blog (italics mine).
In other words, the burden of proof is on the blogger. The statement goes on to say that
“Inevitably, we occasionally receive DMCA complaints even though the blogger does have the legal right to link to the music in question. Whether this is the result of miscommunication by staff at the record label, or confusion over which MP3s are “official,” it happens. If this happens to you, it is imperative that you file a DMCA counter-claim so we know you have the right to the music in question. Otherwise, if we receive multiple DMCA complaints for your blog, this could very well constitute repeat offenses, compelling us to take action.”
Fortunately, the DMCA complaint form seems fairly stringent and requires a lot of specific information, ostensibly preventing anyone from shutting down a blog they don’t like by sending off an accusatory email or two to Blogger. And what’s more, Blogger’s policy (according to the statement) is to notify blog owners of any complaints made against them and to reset the offending post to ‘draft’ status, allowing them to remove the infringing content.
But that doesn’t explain why so many blogs were shut down so quickly and, apparently, without warning.
Several commentators are pointing to this incident as further proof of the ineffectiveness of the existing online copyright regime. As Techdirt points out,
… there are two real issues here. First, is the ridiculous “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” aspect of record label lawyers sending out DMCA takedowns for content that its marketing department sent to the blogs on purpose. But second, and much more important, is the ridiculousness of the DMCA‘s notice-and-takedown provisions in its safe harbors. It’s a “guilty until you’re innocent” type of measure. It effectively forces Google into a position where it needs to take down the content, until a blogger goes through the confusing process of filing a counternotice.
The response to this whole kerfuffle has been widespread and, often, intense. We’ll keep you abreast of any updates. Hopefully it gains enough steam to positively affect how intellectual property rights are regulated on the internet, leading eventually to a fairer and more transparent framework.