Feb 13, 2010

Defending blogging against Blogger

Last night, I was sniffing through my 78s looking for something to write about. There's so much to cover this month, with lots of lovely new noise from Martyn, Massive Attack, Moebius, Merzbow, Mosca and pretty much everyone else beginning with M.

And then I spotted a Guardian article that made my blood turn to ice pops. Google has been deleting music blogs for mp3 copyright infringements.

It seemed that six blogs had been smudged off the face of the internet by Blogger after the service received legal notices under the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Some of those 'infringements' were for mp3s sent by record labels to be posted with full permission.

I have never had an entire blog deleted, but I know what it feels like to have a post taken down.


Just over a year ago, I wrote this article about an upcoming Squarepusher EP. I also included a free mp3 that had been dawdling around internettle for about a month. Blogger then pinged me an email which said something like:

- we've deleted your post;
- there is something you can do about it, but it's long and convoluted;
- we could haul your ass in court, you know.
- we murdered your cat. (This last bit may not be true.)

No warning. I had never been in trouble before, what with my perfect grades and neatly-ironed school shorts. I was terribly upset. I restored the post using Google cache, left out the criminal mp3 (TV On The Radio are bastards anyway) and then had a frustrating conversation with Blogger that lead exactly nowhere.

It was like talking to grandpa after he'd had half a bottle of whiskey, a ride on the teacups and a massive stroke all at the same time.

Stupid ego

I have not posted mp3s since then because Fat Roland On Electronica has never really been about free mp3s: it's more of an outlet for my stupid ego. (Having said that, I might not post free mp3s, but some, um, interesting stuff sometimes appears in the comments on this blog, as well as on my Twitter feed.)

Interestingly enough, Blogger did tell me that I should have received warning notices. What absolute dolphin spit. I didn't. Not a single one. They also said the same thing to Massala, who had his blog restored this week and received a grovelling apology which said:

"What happened this week when we removed your blog was a mistake. As you no doubt know by now, we removed your blog citing repeat offenses of the DMCA.
"The problem was that due to a processing error, you had not received notice of the DMCA complaints we'd received for your blog."
Processing error? Hold that thought.


Blogger's product manager Rick Klau said: "When we receive multiple DMCA complaints about the same blog, and have no indication that the offending content is being used in an authorised manner, we will remove the blog...

"[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."

And so there is sometimes a breakdown in communication resulting in a false DMCA claim. Add to this the possibility of processing errors, then you'd think Blogger would think twice before deleting, wouldn't you?

Once the blog is killed off, you lose your traffic, your momentum and any trust you have for your service provider. It is an extreme thing to do. Surely the music bloggers should have the right to counter-claim before their blog is deleted, not after.

It's like appealing your sentence after the execution. Blogger's policy is patently nonsense.


Add to this the absolute absurdity of Blogger not even mentioning which mp3 triggered the DMCA infringement in their take-down notification (again, that happened to me a year ago and has been happening repeatedly since).

I'm not even going to bother to defend the posting of mp3s: it seems like a good thing to do and it supports the ideal of an internet that is democratic and user-led, as well as bringing music to a wider, paying audience much more quickly than through traditional channels such as advertising, mailing lists and a music-starved MTV.

Virtual Music has an excellent piece about handling the threat of DMCA notifications; if you blog, I urge you to read it.

In the meantime, I will be watching Blogger's response to the situation and, if they continue to be thick-headed about the whole thing, won't hestitate to migrate to a better platform where I can write about music beginning with M in blissful peace.


Isaac Ashe said...

It is worrying - I post entirely legally offered mp3s from time to time, when offered by PRs and bands etc. but there's always that seed of doubt in your mind now.
At the same time, somebody is spamming my blog with clearly libellous comments about the parents of Madeleine McCann, I try to report their own site as an abuse of blogger and they say that they won't act on libellous material without a court order.
At least it means I can question the owners of blogger's parentage without fear of deletion...

Fat Roland said...

How annoying. You can get their blog pulled for spamming, surely?

I had someone spam me on Twitter. It wouldn't normally bother me, but they boasted in their own blog comments section about how their spamming had increased their readership.

I blocked and reported them as spam to Twitter, gave evidence to Wordpress about their spamming behaviour, and Wordpress not only pulled their blog, one of their tech team sent me a nice thank-you email.

I would hope Blogger would be as helpful... but I'm not so sure.

David Hartley said...

it is indeed a concern. it seems like its not fun to stay at the DMCA, young man.

kind of contradicts the whole idea of blogging. I know some mysterious people in the ether somewhere are shivering naked in the corner of their cold dark rooms who can't concieve of the fact that we-can-listen-to-music- for-free-but-will-still-actually- buy-it-if-its-good-enough, but this is ridiculous. Never mind, the blogosphere will never be defeated!

Make sure you cover Mariah Carey, MC hammer, Mr. Blobby and Boney M

Davio TD

Fat Roland said...

I was trying to work out a way of squeezing a YMCA reference into that blog post, but I think it would have looked like I had shoved it in for the sake of a quick thrill.

As it were.