The DMCA on 7 Blog Hosts

For the next chapter in the “DMCA Seven” series, we’re taking a look at one of the most common types of hosts out there, blog hosts.

Many of these hosts have been copyright headaches for Webmasters. They are prime targets for spam blogs and scrapers and some have played a huge role in rise of the “splogosphere”.

Without the help of these hosts, the copyrights of bloggers will be almost impossible to protect, especially for smaller rightsholders that can not afford attorneys to go after plagiarists. That makes the DMCA/copyright policies of these hosts a matter of critical importance to the rest of us on the Web.

So how do they mneasure up? Let’s take a look at seven of the leaders and find out.

blogger2.png

Format: Email
Email Address: amac at google dot com
Location of Policy: Google’s DMCA Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Every time I do one of these articles, it seems that Google owns one of the seven leading properties and I’m forced to cover them again and rehash the same complaints. To summarize, their requirement of a handwritten signature needlessly complicates the process of filing a DMCA complaint and, most likely, does not comply with the law, in particular the ESIGN Act. Until they are able to accept email complaints without PDF trickery, they will be a major thorn in Webmaster’s sides and, in this case, a great target for spam bloggers/scrapers.
Grade: D

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Format: Email
Email Address: jkweston at microsoft dot com
Location of Policy: Microsoft’s Copyright Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Be grateful you read this site and be sure to bookmark this article. Otherwise, the odds of you quickly finding the copyright policy for MSN Live Spaces are slim to one. Their report abuse page gives you a drop down to report copyright infringement. However, sending a report there, even with a full DMCA notice, only results in an autoreply directing you to follow the guide above (as reported by visitors of this site). You can also find a mention of the policy on their legal page, but the link to the actual policy isn’t even clickable. You have to literally copy and paste the URL to use it. The policy itself is fairly complete, containing all of the necessary information, but finding it is a pain. You can’t even do a Google search for it. It is as if Microsoft is deliberately hiding this page. It may not be illegal, but it is some of the worst service I have ever seen.
Grade: C-

aolpeople.png

Format: Form/Email
Email Address: aolcopyright at aol dot com
Location of Policy: AOL’s Copyright Infringement Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: AOL may be considered a dinosaur on the Web, but they do exhibit some forward thinking in this area. They provide a very convinient from (linked above) for filing complaints of copyright infringement that takes care of most of the dirty work for you. It’s definitely one of the easiest ways to report an infringement I’ve seen. The only problem with AOL’s policy is that it is also very hard to find. To get to that form you have to find a link buried in their terms of use to get to their infringement policy and, from there, click their “Copyright Notice” link to get to the form itself. They also don’t provide an email address, save on their USCO registration but otherwise is complete, giving all of the necessary information to file a notice. Though I am irked by the location of the policy and the roadblocks in finding it, it is overall a solid way to handle such matters.
Grade: B+

wordpresslogo.png

Format: Email
Email Address: dmca at automattic dot com
Location of Policy: Automattic’s DMCA Policy
Registered with USCO: No
Comments: Though Automattic is definitely on the offensive against spam, their DMCA policy leaves a lot to be desired. While the actual policy is very complete, though omitting a fax number, finding it is a pain. The link to it is buried in the terms of service and they have not registered with the USCO meaning that there is no alternative way to look up the information. Though they have a great reputation for handling such issues once notified, their front end and user-friendliness could definitely use some work. Though the policy is likely within the bounds of the law, the lack of USCO registration and the difficult location discourage me greatly and raise some potential legal issues.
Grade: D+

typepadlogo.png

Format: Email
Email Address: copyright at typepad dot com
Location of Policy: Typepad’s Copyright Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: One of two SixApart services we’re going to cover, Typepad is a breath of fresh air when stacked up to its competitors. The copyright policy is well-written, robust and complete. It is linked at the bottom of most SixApart-controlled pages, including the home page, and is very easy to find. They are also registered with the USCO and their information there is up to date. Though some issues exist on the backend, in particular with other SixApart services, they definitely understand how to comply with the DMCA and make the process as painless as possible for the end user.
Grade: B+

livejournallogo.png

Format: Email
Email Address: copyright at livejournal dot com
Location of Policy: LiveJournalal’s Copyright Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: The other SixApart service shares its policy with its brother. In fact, at first glance, the text of the two policies appear to be identical. As with TypePad, the copyright policy is linked at the footer of nearly every LiveJournal-controlled page, including the home page, and offers the same level of completeness. Though I would prefer the policy, along with other abuse information, be available on all pages, including individual blogs, the benefit of that would be minimal as most people will simply visit the home page.
Grade: B+

blogsomelogo.png

Format: Email?
Email Address: legal at blogsome dot com?
Location of Policy: Blogsome Terms of Service
Registered with USCO: No
Comments: Blogsome talks one of the toughest games when it comes to copyright infringement. Their modest-lengthed terms of service uses the word “copyright” ten times. However, there’s no teeth to this policy. There is no address given to contact about copyright infringement. Though they are an Irish site and do not have to follow the DMCA, there are EU regulations at play and, without a clear means of contact for reporting abuses, I am very worried about how this site might be misused. Hopefully, they will update their policies soon to make it more clear where they should take such matters, the address above is the only account I could find used in relation to the terms of service in any way, shape or form.
Grade: F

Wrap Up

It is an Alice in Wonderland moment for me. SixApart, who has drawn criticism for their copyright polices elsewhere, has the best public DMCA policies of all the services listed. WordPress, the dedicated spam fighter, has one of the worst.

Equally strange, the big companies, Microsoft and Google, both have obstructionist policies while the dinosaur AOL and small business SixApart have much more effective and open ones.

Over all though, I was very disappointed in the policies of the major blog hosts. Most have shown little interest working with rightsholders and some are downright uncooperative. With one F, two Ds, a C- and three B+s, two belonging to SixApart, this is easily one of the worst genres I have reviewed.

Conclusions

In the end, none of the blogging companies earned an A. They all had at least some issues with their policy and, despite being some of the largest, most important hosts on the Web, only one showed any kind of evolution or forward-thinking in this area.

When stacked against the video sharing sites, it becomes clear what a difference the threat of lawsuits has on a company. Where the video sharing sites have taken great care in crafting their policies, the blog hosts have largely just thrown theirs together, working only to meet the minimum standards they feel they should be held up to.

Looking at these policies and going back over my personal experiences with many of these hosts, there is no wonder why and how the spam blog problem grew to the proportions that it did.

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