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Musicblogocide 2010: The Blame Game

Last week Google shut down a series of music blogs running on their popular Blogger service. All of the blogs were shut down for alleged copyright violations but at least six of the blogs were popular music blogs, including several that claimed they had obtained all of the music they were sharing legitimately.

This kicked off a firestorm of controversy and blame was quickly spread around. Many blamed the labels for sending such clearly false DMCA notices, others blamed Google for sending inadequate notices and others still blamed the laws themselves

The truth is that there is plenty of blame to go around. When you step back and take a look at the situation and how it unfolded, you can see that there are no completely innocent parties nor any one guilty entity. It was a perfect storm created by a series of bungles and missteps that, fortunately, is more rare than it seems.

However, to figure out how to prevent such takedowns in the future, let us take a look at what happened and what everyone can do better.

The Record Labels

The record labels initiated the whole situation. Their automated bots detected copies of their MP3s on various Google-hosted blogs and their staff filed takedown notices against those blogs. At least some of these takedowns, however, were against blogs that, according to their owners, had received permission from various agents to post the content. In fact, many had been pushed by PR firms to post the songs and promote them.

Why Blame Them: Though it seems likely the vast majority of the notices were legitimate as there are, or at least were, many unlawful music blogs on Blogger, greater care should have been taken to avoid sending notices to blogs that had been given permission to post the music files. In many cases, according to the bloggers, even a cursory evaluation of the actual page the MP3 was on would have shown it was a permitted use, something the record labels failed to do. Clearly, the record labels could have and should have done more to avoid filing against those they recruited to push out their works.

In Their Defense: Record labels are huge corporations, even today, and there are countless departments and third party contractors involved with the companies. It is very likely that enforcement team does not know what the PR team is doing, especially since both are likely outsourced to some degree. Furthermore, given the sheer volume of such notices that are almost certainly sent out and the relatively few that turn out to be mistakes, the record labels, overall, seem to do a decent job handling the situation under the circumstances. While there is clear room for improvement, I don’t think anyone would call these notices malicious, especially since they hurt themselves and their own PR efforts.

Google

Google’s role in this was more of a middle man. It received the takedown notices from the labels, removed or disabled access to the infringing works and notified the bloggers involved of the removals. Once the DMCA notices reached a threshold to be considered repeat infringers, Google then deleted the blogs, as demanded by the DMCA.

Why Blame Them: Google’s notices seem to be at the source of much of the confusion. Bloggers initially claimed that they didn’t always know what was being removed or why nor did they know how to respond. Others also claimed that they thought the removal of the content was the end of it and nothing more needed be done, much less that the notices had a cumulative effect and could result in an outright ban of their blogs.

In Their Defense: Simply put, Google has done more than most in this area. Google’s partnership with Chilling Effects, which has been deeply integrated into the Blogger takedown process, ensures transparency and as you can see in this sample notice links are clearly provided. Though Google may have some work to do in explaining the counternotice procedure, they still do more than the vast majority of hosts out there, especially since their overhauls in August.

The Bloggers

If we focus solely on the bloggers operating legitimate music blogs and not those using the service for unlawful purposes, the bloggers largely did nothing. They received permission to post MP3s, in some cases having them pushed upon them, and did so. They received takedown notices but, since the work was already removed, did nothing further.

Why Blame Them: Music bloggers, especially those who post MP3s, have to understand that they are very likely to run into copyright issues. They have an obligation, when using other’s copyrighted works, to understand the law and what their obligations are. Also, no response is one of the worst responses to any legal papers received. If they had read the notice thoroughly, researched the law behind it and then filed a counter-notice when appropriate, their blogs would still be open.

In Their Defense: The law is confusing and impossible even for attorneys to fully make sense of. Bloggers, for the most part, lack the time, resources and knowledge to fully understand copyright law. They rely upon their Web hosts and those filing objections against them to make what they need to do understood. Furthermore, those who did nothing wrong put their faith into the system, assuming that it would work without them needing to take any action but that was clearly not the case.

The Law

The DMCA safe harbor provisions require hosts to expeditiously remove or disable access to allegedly infringing material when they receive a proper notice. They also require that hosts ban or otherwise shut down the accounts of repeat infringers. Google, as a U.S. company, is bound by this law and it is the method that the record labels used to secure the removal of the files they viewed as infringing and it was under this policy that the blogs in question were shut down.

Why Blame It: The law doesn’t offer much forgiveness nor, at least initially, voice to the person who is the subject of the DMCA notice. When notices are filed correctly, the system works fine, but when mistakes are made it is often very ugly and unfortunate. Under the law, Google had little choice than to remove the allegedly infringing pages, even if they were marked in error, and put the burden on their user to respond.

In Its Defense: The DMCA provides very robust protection against misuse. There is a counter-notice system which restores works that were removed and the DMCA also provides very harsh penalties for those who abuse the law. If hosts carry out the DMCA correctly and users respond appropriately, a mistake in the system should be just an annoyance. Failures such as this one require a very rare set of circumstances to come together at once to compound the problem.

Bottom Line

So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone.

For this type of disaster to take place, there has to be a very sizable series of mistakes and errors. There is a reason why incidents such as this one are very rare.

Simply put, the record labels need to do better when sending their notices, Google needs to better explain them (perhaps relying a bit less on Chilling Effects for that assistance), bloggers need to be aware of the law and respond accordingly. Also, the law itself could probably use a few tweaks to streamline the handling of errors.

For the most part, the safe harbor protections have been very good for the Web and, on the whole, have been used as they were intended. Though a few have used them maliciously, they have, for the most part, been dealt with. Though a few mistakes have happened, they are rare in the big scheme of things.

Still, when something like this does happen it is important to analyze it and see where the mistakes were made. This way, we can prevent them in the future and continue to make rare occurrences even more rare.

In the end, I hope that this will be a learning experience for all involved and those who were spared. If we move forward from this wiser, then it was not a completely useless experience.

41 comments
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We provide custom web solutions consulting, design and web development services for customers across board. Our credo is to give each client individualized attention. Due to the wide range of out team's skills, we can help you choose the optimal programming and design technologies for your project.
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Paola
Paola

In an excellent, structured summary Jonathan Bailey of @PlagiarismToday analyzes what went wrong in the Musicblogocide debacle and what lessons it brings to bloggers, music industry, Google and law makers.

Paola
Paola

In an excellent, structured summary Jonathan Bailey of @PlagiarismToday analyzes what went wrong in the Musicblogocide debacle and what lessons it brings to bloggers, music industry, Google and law makers.

Paola
Paola

In an excellent, structured summary Jonathan Bailey of @PlagiarismToday analyzes what went wrong in the Musicblogocide debacle and what lessons it brings to bloggers, music industry, Google and law makers.

Paola
Paola

In an excellent, structured summary Jonathan Bailey of @PlagiarismToday analyzes what went wrong in the Musicblogocide debacle and what lessons it brings to bloggers, music industry, Google and law makers.

Paola
Paola

In an excellent, structured summary Jonathan Bailey of @PlagiarismToday analyzes what went wrong in the Musicblogocide debacle and what lessons it brings to bloggers, music industry, Google and law makers.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Agreed. The fact that they are large corporations is no excuse, especially considering the seriousness of the issue. A DMCA notice is essentially the written groundwork for future litigation; there is absolutely no excuse for ANYONE, regardless of the size of their organization, to go around handing them out without being damn sure that the recipient is in the wrong. Combined with the fact that most of the mistakes could have been avoided if any one single person in the huge corporation had actually bothered to simply view the blog, this serves to further demonstrate the heavy-handedness and irresponsibility of the music industry, as well as their apparent desire to sue anyone who own any form of music whatsoever.

Phil
Phil

I think you are letting the record companies off too lightly here. To say that they are huge corporations, therefore mistakes are inevitable and probably not malicious is to paper over the fact that they erred. Someone, at some level in the organisations, has to have the power over and knowledge of both enforcement and permissions groups.

Phil
Phil

I think you are letting the record companies off too lightly here. To say that they are huge corporations, therefore mistakes are inevitable and probably not malicious is to paper over the fact that they erred. Someone, at some level in the organisations, has to have the power over and knowledge of both enforcement and permissions groups.

Phil
Phil

I think you are letting the record companies off too lightly here. To say that they are huge corporations, therefore mistakes are inevitable and probably not malicious is to paper over the fact that they erred. Someone, at some level in the organisations, has to have the power over and knowledge of both enforcement and permissions groups.

Ryan
Ryan

Anyone else think that the major media companies are using copyright law to turn the internet into the next television?

Never mind the douchebags or this silly blame game.. lets take responsibility for the problem and do our part to solve it by shopping smart. We hold all the cards and we have all the damn money, why not give it to those who wont stab us in the back with it?

You can start now by rejecting advertisements. Why? If my common sense suits me right... ads only promote impulsive spending and the last time I checked, impulsive spending does not concern product quality or your rights as a free human being. Try word-of-mouth or perhaps a product review? You can even do this during a commercial if you watch television, for the rest of us, there is the internet with our favorite ad-blocking addon!

shop smart!

Ryan
Ryan

Anyone else think that the major media companies are using copyright law to turn the internet into the next television?

Never mind the douchebags or this silly blame game.. lets take responsibility for the problem and do our part to solve it by shopping smart. We hold all the cards and we have all the damn money, why not give it to those who wont stab us in the back with it?

You can start now by rejecting advertisements. Why? If my common sense suits me right... ads only promote impulsive spending and the last time I checked, impulsive spending does not concern product quality or your rights as a free human being. Try word-of-mouth or perhaps a product review? You can even do this during a commercial if you watch television, for the rest of us, there is the internet with our favorite ad-blocking addon!

shop smart!

Ryan
Ryan

Anyone else think that the major media companies are using copyright law to turn the internet into the next television?
Never mind the douchebags or this silly blame game.. lets take responsibility for the problem and do our part to solve it by shopping smart. We hold all the cards and we have all the damn money, why not give it to those who wont stab us in the back with it?
You can start now by rejecting advertisements. Why? If my common sense suits me right... ads only promote impulsive spending and the last time I checked, impulsive spending does not concern product quality or your rights as a free human being. Try word-of-mouth or perhaps a product review? You can even do this during a commercial if you watch television, for the rest of us, there is the internet with our favorite ad-blocking addon!
shop smart!

Ryan
Ryan

Anyone else think that the major media companies are using copyright law to turn the internet into the next television? Never mind the douchebags or this silly blame game.. lets take responsibility for the problem and do our part to solve it by shopping smart. We hold all the cards and we have all the damn money, why not give it to those who wont stab us in the back with it? You can start now by rejecting advertisements. Why? If my common sense suits me right... ads only promote impulsive spending and the last time I checked, impulsive spending does not concern product quality or your rights as a free human being. Try word-of-mouth or perhaps a product review? You can even do this during a commercial if you watch television, for the rest of us, there is the internet with our favorite ad-blocking addon! shop smart!

Phil
Phil

I think you are letting the record companies off too lightly here. To say that they are huge corporations, therefore mistakes are inevitable and probably not malicious is to paper over the fact that they erred. Someone, at some level in the organisations, has to have the power over and knowledge of both enforcement and permissions groups.

Phil
Phil

I think you are letting the record companies off too lightly here. To say that they are huge corporations, therefore mistakes are inevitable and probably not malicious is to paper over the fact that they erred. Someone, at some level in the organisations, has to have the power over and knowledge of both enforcement and permissions groups.

Shamrock
Shamrock

As a blogger, it would be nice to have a little more info before a deletion. I mean both record companies and google profit from these blogs advertising for them.

Shamrock
Shamrock

As a blogger, it would be nice to have a little more info before a deletion. I mean both record companies and google profit from these blogs advertising for them.

Shamrock
Shamrock

As a blogger, it would be nice to have a little more info before a deletion. I mean both record companies and google profit from these blogs advertising for them.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple.

For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Mike Cane
Mike Cane

>>>So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone.

I hope you are never allowed to serve on a jury, ever.

Mike Cane
Mike Cane

>>>So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone.

I hope you are never allowed to serve on a jury, ever.

Mike Cane
Mike Cane

>>>So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone.
I hope you are never allowed to serve on a jury, ever.

Mike Cane
Mike Cane

>>>So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone. I hope you are never allowed to serve on a jury, ever.

Mike Cane
Mike Cane

>>>So who is to blame for Musicblogocide 2010? Everyone. I hope you are never allowed to serve on a jury, ever.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple.

For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple. For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple.
For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Tayo
Tayo

My blog one neck, two chains (onenecktwochains.blogspot.com) was also deleted. We had over 3000 posts, 250,000 impressions and 150,000 visitors. All gone, just like that.

Tayo
Tayo

My blog one neck, two chains (onenecktwochains.blogspot.com) was also deleted. We had over 3000 posts, 250,000 impressions and 150,000 visitors. All gone, just like that.

Tayo
Tayo

My blog one neck, two chains (onenecktwochains.blogspot.com) was also deleted. We had over 3000 posts, 250,000 impressions and 150,000 visitors. All gone, just like that.

Tayo
Tayo

My blog one neck, two chains (onenecktwochains.blogspot.com) was also deleted. We had over 3000 posts, 250,000 impressions and 150,000 visitors. All gone, just like that.

Tayo
Tayo

My blog one neck, two chains (onenecktwochains.blogspot.com) was also deleted. We had over 3000 posts, 250,000 impressions and 150,000 visitors. All gone, just like that.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Agreed. The fact that they are large corporations is no excuse, especially considering the seriousness of the issue. A DMCA notice is essentially the written groundwork for future litigation; there is absolutely no excuse for ANYONE, regardless of the size of their organization, to go around handing them out without being damn sure that the recipient is in the wrong. Combined with the fact that most of the mistakes could have been avoided if any one single person in the huge corporation had actually bothered to simply view the blog, this serves to further demonstrate the heavy-handedness and irresponsibility of the music industry, as well as their apparent desire to sue anyone who own any form of music whatsoever.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Agreed. The fact that they are large corporations is no excuse, especially considering the seriousness of the issue. A DMCA notice is essentially the written groundwork for future litigation; there is absolutely no excuse for ANYONE, regardless of the size of their organization, to go around handing them out without being damn sure that the recipient is in the wrong. Combined with the fact that most of the mistakes could have been avoided if any one single person in the huge corporation had actually bothered to simply view the blog, this serves to further demonstrate the heavy-handedness and irresponsibility of the music industry, as well as their apparent desire to sue anyone who own any form of music whatsoever.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Agreed. The fact that they are large corporations is no excuse, especially considering the seriousness of the issue. A DMCA notice is essentially the written groundwork for future litigation; there is absolutely no excuse for ANYONE, regardless of the size of their organization, to go around handing them out without being damn sure that the recipient is in the wrong. Combined with the fact that most of the mistakes could have been avoided if any one single person in the huge corporation had actually bothered to simply view the blog, this serves to further demonstrate the heavy-handedness and irresponsibility of the music industry, as well as their apparent desire to sue anyone who own any form of music whatsoever.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple.
For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

I'm sorry you disagree and would be interested in your exact thoughts. However, it is clear that without a string of mistakes on the part of three different parties that it never would have happened. Everyone made mistakes. It's that simple. For the record though, I was on a jury once about ten years ago, a murder trial. No worries though, justice was done in the case.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] top of those comes a so-far little-reported incident that’s been tagged Musicblogocide 2010. Earlier this month Google deleted years’ worth of archives from six popular music blogs [...]

  2. [...] guten und sehr differenzierten Überblick über die Problematik gibt der Beitrag Musicblogocide 2010 – The Blame Game von Jonathan Bailey (in seinem Blog [...]

  3. [...] This is What You Get Musicblogocide 2010: The Blame Game [...]

  4. frenzin.com says:

    Musicblogocide 2010: The Blame Game…

    Last week Google shut down a series of music blogs running on their popular Blogger service. All of the blogs were shut down for alleged copyright violations but at least six of the blogs were popular music blogs, including several that claimed they ha…

  5. [...] Musicblogocide 2010: The Blame Game – No parties are innocent in the case of Google pulling down Blogspot blogs that offered [...]

  6. [...] top of those comes a so-far little reported incident that’s been tagged Musicblogocide 2010. Earlier this month Google deleted years’ worth of archives from six popular music blogs [...]

  7. [...] After the song became a hit, however, YouTube  — where many of the dancing videos were hosted — began taking down the earlier videos.  Their audio-recognition software, Marshall explains, recognizes unauthorized music and sends takedown notices to the folks who’ve uploaded the videos (another effect of this, Marshall notes, is the takedown of music blogs). [...]