Google’s reign as the “Do No Evil” company may finally be over. Thankfully, they have provided us with a fantastic weekend bitchmeme. During my morning reading, I found a post on techdirt.com regarding Google deleting blog posts when the RIAA tells them to do so. This is based on the findings of several music bloggers using Google’s Blogger platform. A quick summary from the techdirt.com post:
An RIAA source says that the group sends Google a list of URLs it doesn’t like, and Google “then deals with the problem.” Google says that it notifies bloggers after their posts have been taken down, in accordance with the DMCA. But it should hardly be surprising that many of those affected say they’ve gotten no such notice, nor that the offending material was either legally posted and/or supplied by the labels themselves.
Personally, I do not care about the RIAA and whether they have a right for pursuing cease-and-desist or sending takedown notices. The problem I have is with Google’s actions. If the information is correct, then Google is acting just like the RIAA. Steven Hodson sums it up nicely over at Inquisitr:
I realize that Google can be heavy handed at times and no-one is surprised by anything that the RIAA does anymore but if this story is true then I think that Google has a lot to answer for. I hope for their sake this is wrong because if not it will show to everyone that Google is definitely the new evil.
The problem here is that Google is deleting content that you created without any notification. This is technically a violation of their own policies. The main Blogger Terms of Service include the normal terms regarding reserving rights to not display content. For example, here is a segment regarding the content of the service:
Google reserves the right at all times to remove or refuse to distribute any content on the Service, such as content which violates the terms of this Agreement. Google also reserves the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as it reasonably believes is necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of potential violations hereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, (d) respond to user support requests, or (e) protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users and the public.
As you can see, they do reserve the right to remove whatever they want. Granted this is standard legalese, but removing content that someone has created without notice is very surprising. Because of this, I decided to keep looking for anything related to RIAA or takedown notices. Google also has information regarding the DMCA and the Blogger service. The second paragraph of this information has their general policy regarding the DMCA:
Regardless of whether we may be liable for such infringement under local country law or United States law, our response to these notices may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity and/or terminating subscribers. If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that they may make a counter notification. We may also document notices of alleged infringement on which we act. Please note that in addition to being forwarded to the person who provided the allegedly infringing content, a copy of this legal notice may be sent to a third-party which may publish and/or annotate it. As such, your letter (with your personal information removed) may be forwarded to Chilling Effects (http://www.chillingeffects.org) for publication. You can see an example of such a publication at http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512/notice.cgi?NoticeID=861.
As you can see, there should be a “good-faith attempt” to contact the blogger. If it is true that Google has not contacted these bloggers prior to removing their posts, then Google has moved into the “doing evil” category. Without those contact attempts, Google is violating their own policy that is readily available to all who want to read it.
Now, the question is what type of backlash will there be. There has been very little coverage of this situation so far, but it has recently been reported. Those bloggers who have been affected should probably backup their content to ensure they do not lose anything else. Another question is how many people will take their blog and run to another blog platform? There is a storm brewing, and Google brought it upon themselves.