Shame on you, Google.

Atheist blogger Justin Vacula is in a bit of a quandary.

You see, Justin recently wrote a post about his dissention from Amy Davis Roth’s (SurlyAmy’s) position on anti-harassment policies at skeptical/atheist conventions. Whether or not you agree with either of them isn’t really the point of this post; I don’t know enough about the whole discussion to know what the situation is here. But that’s completely irrelevant.

The entire reason that I’m writing this is this simple: Justin received a DMCA complaint against his blog for (supposedly) violating SurlyAmy’s intellectual property rights. (FYI: the DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an extremely heavy-handed US law passed back in 1998 that basically made American copyright law assume the guilt of the accused in any question of copyright law regarding digital media.)

There’s technically a law that makes it illegal to file a false DMCA complaint, but Blogger – the Google-owned blogging site where Justin’s blog is hosted – doesn’t even bother to check into the claims. They just outright remove the posts. (Well, I guess they just move the posts back to the not-publicly-visible ‘draft’ status so that the blog owners can remove the copyrighted content… but that’s not much better.)

Per Blogger’s policy, Justin is forced to remove the “infringing” content before he can re-post his original post, and if he doesn’t, he faces having his entire blog shut down. Never mind that the DMCA claim hasn’t even been validated yet; it’s enough that the claim was made. That’s enough to censor someone. It didn’t even have to actually be SurlyAmy herself; someone could make the claim with the assertion that they represented her, and voila, down goes Justin’s post.

There is so much wrong with a law that can get you censored without anyone actually having to demonstrate that you’ve infringed their copyright – let alone that they actually have the copyright in the first place. There’s even more wrong with a policy of forcing you to remove the “not proved, only accused” content before you can re-publish your post. All it takes to get an unpopular opinion removed from public view is a lie about a post containing copyrighted content. Google should honestly be ashamed of this.

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7 thoughts on “Shame on you, Google.

  1. Brian Carnell

    "There’s even more wrong with a policy of forcing you to remove the “not proved, only accused” content before you can re-publish your post. All it takes to get an unpopular opinion removed from public view is a lie about a post containing copyrighted content. Google should honestly be ashamed of this."

    Completely disagree. Given the legal requirements of the DMCA, Google does a fairly good job of complying with an idiotic law while also doing all it can to bring attention to abuse of the DMCA like this.

    Google's response to DMCA requests is in line with what almost every other provider does, plus they've gone the extra step of working with the EFF, etc.

    Reply
    1. mobathome

      @Carnell: You write “Google [does] all it can to bring attention to abuse of the DMCA like this." Would you please support this? Google's top 10 hits' headlines fail to immediately reveal any efforts on Google's part:
      1. Removing Content From Google – Google Help
      2. Contact Us – AdSense Help – Google
      3. Webmaster Tools – Google
      4. Google's latest search algorithm update is a big concession to Hollywood
      5. Google doubles down on copyright complaints for YouTube clips
      6. Why Google's anti-piracy search crackdown won't affect YouTube
      7. Tips for Writing a DMCA Complaint to Google
      8. How do you send Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA – SEO Logic
      9. Google To Use DMCA Requests To Issue Site Penalties
      10. RIAA Demands Unlimited DMCA Power From Google | TorrentFreak

      Reply
  2. Eric

    Please read about the "safe harbor" provisions in the DMCA and what providers are *required* to do in order to qualify. For example, http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/faq.cgi#QI

    If Google didn't remove the supposedly infringing content, and it was infringing, Google could be hit with the copyright suit, rather than whoever was actually stealing the content.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and I work for Google (though not on the blog or DMCA stuff)

    Reply
  3. turbofool

    This isn't a Google issue. Google is, in fact, following the law, as awful as it is. The law's the problem, not their enforcement.

    Reply

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