Google’s Blogger Changes DMCA Procedure


Back in April, I announced that Blogger was now accepting DMCA notices via a form, the first case of Google easily accepting DMCA notices online. The next month, I noted that Chilling Effects, a major database for takedown notices, had come back to life after many months with little activity and was mostly posting Blogger notices.

Though these were clear signs that Blogger was changing their approach to the DMCA, there had been no formal announcement about the shift. However, earlier today, Blogger announced these changes on their blog and, along with them, noted a few other shifts in their DMCA policy.

Given Google’s status as an industry leader and Blogger’s status as a leading blog platform, it seems likely that other hosts will be watching these changes closely to see if they should be making changes to their own system for handling DMCA takedown notices.

Some Background

According to Google, they began looking at making improvements in their DMCA system after they received some negative press regarding their handling of takedowns, especially for music blogs. The complaints, specifically, were that Google was taking down posts and not informing bloggers and providing no meaningful recourse if the notice was filed in error.

According to Blogger, every time a takedown was filed, the blog owner was notified at the email address they signed up with. However, many bloggers had not updated their email and thus not received the notice.

Still, Blogger wanted to improve the system and approached users and several other organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chilling Effects, about ways to improve the system, the changes to which went live today.

The Changes

There are four basic changes to the system that are taking place, effective immediately:

  1. DMCA Complaints Handled via Form: This has actually been in service since April, but this is the first formal announcement of it.
  2. Complaints Automatically Sent to Chilling Effects: Once again, this has been taking place since at least May, but all notices are forwarded to Chilling Effects are posted to the site almost immediately, sans personal information.
  3. Users Receive Dashboard AND Email Notifications: If a user is the subject of a DMCA notice, they will be notified via both their Blogger dashboard and email, ensuring that they find out.
  4. Subject Blog Posts are Set to Draft: Rather than deleting allegedly infringing posts, they are instead set to draft (thus taking them offline) and users can then edit the post to remove the infringing material and then reupload it. This was done largely to appease music bloggers, who didn’t want a whole post take down to a notice over an audio file embedded inside.

That being said, it is the fourth change that will be the biggest worry for most copyright holders. There is little to stop a blogger from just reposting the infringing material. However, a representative from Blogger told me that they expect those cases to be very rare and plan to take them very seriously. It was also emphasized to me that nothing in this policy will change their approach to repeat infringers and that sites used solely to infringe content, such as share links to illegal downloads, will still be dealt with severely.

This system is designed for bloggers who see notices very rarely, to ensure that they are given proper notification, via Chilling Effects, and that they remove the infringing content with a minimal amount of impact on the rest of their site.

Personal Thoughts

Overall, I am very pleased with the system. It seems like a true win-win that will result in faster, easier take downs of infringing material while providing better notifications to users and better protections against false notices.

The use of draft status to remove infringing posts is somewhat worrisome. For one, there are many posts where the entire work is an infringement and there isn’t anything to edit out. Also, there are many infringements on Blogger that don’t deal with an individual post, but an image in the sidebar or something else that is a part of the template. It is unclear how those will be handled though, most likely, the previous system would be applied (save that the user would be notified via their dashboard).

However, as long as the reassurances I received turn out to be true, the use of draft status to remove works is not that worrisome. We will have to watch this and see if there are any issues with it in the future.

On the other side, the use of Chilling Effects to give the users the notice seems flawed to me. Not only does it rely on a third-party service to pass along the notice, meaning if CE goes down, so does the ability for the user to get a copy of the notice, but the site omits personal information. There needs to be a clear system in place for retrieval of the full notice if needed for legal reasons. Though I am a supporter of Chilling Effects, this does not seem like the best use of it.

Still, the news is overall very good for copyright holders and users alike. Hopefully that is how the system will play out.

Bottom Line

In the end, most people who file DMCA notices with Blogger probably won’t notice any change. Content will still go down after a notice and most likely stay down. The form will remain in use and infringements will be handled more quickly than before. Users will get better notification of takedowns and Chilling Effects will be able to effectively collect data on the DMCA process.

Though there are concerns with the system, it is certainly an improvement over the previous one, which both lead to slow takedowns, due largely to a requirement for a fax or mail notification, and obviously left gaps in how it notified customers.

I hope that they will continue to hone and improve the system, but for the most part these steps make a lot of sense.

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