Much attention has been paid to Google’s role in supporting and profiting via online piracy through online advertising, but there’s another Google enterprise that bears further scrutiny–its “Blogger” hosted websites.
Google’s Blogger platform, like WordPress, offers users around the world a convenient, easy-to-use and free hosting platform to create a website/blog. Most sites are anchored by the Blogger domain blogspot.com although users can also use a custom domain name.
These Blogger-hosted sites are ubiquitous throughout the web and feature blogs offering a wealth of original content, from recipe ideas to personal journals. However, amid the multitude of legitimate users, with a quick (Google) web search, one can easily find a more nefarious use of Blogger websites–virtual emporiums for pirated content.
Of course it’s unreasonable to expect Google to police what could be millions of blogspot sites around the globe. But what happens when a copyright holder discovers a site that is offering illegal links and/or streams to their pirated work? According to Google, it’s a violation of their Blogger “Content Policy”:
Copyright: It is our policy to respond to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement. More information about our copyright procedures can be found here. Also, please don’t provide links to sites where your readers can obtain unauthorized downloads of other people’s content.
If a rights holder finds a Blogger site that violates this policy, Google offers this this online DMCA form to report the site.
It’s a relatively efficient and reasonable process. But what happens to these pirate sites once they are reported? Google explains the consequences for violating the policy as follows:
Our team reviews these flags for policy violations. If the blog does not violate our policies, we will not take any action against the blog or blog owner. If we find that a blog does violate our content policies, we take one or more of the following actions based on the severity of the violation:
- Put the blog behind a ‘mature content’ interstitial
- Put the blog behind an interstitial where only the blog author can access the content
- Delete the blog
- Disable the author’s access to his/her Blogger account
- Disable the author’s access to his/her Google account
- Report the user to law enforcement
- Account Disabling
Many Google Services do not have account holders or subscribers. For Services that do, Google will, in appropriate circumstances, disable the accounts of repeat infringers. If you believe that an account holder or subscriber is a repeat infringer, please follow the instructions above to contact Google’s DMCA agent and provide information sufficient for us to verify that the account holder or subscriber is a repeat infringer.
Is it up to the entity who files the DMCA to prove that the Blogger user is a “repeat infringer?” Doesn’t Google have a way to measure how many times a Blogger site has been reported? Exactly how many violations does it take before an account is disabled? What is Google’s definition of “appropriate circumstances?”
In my experience, upon receiving a DMCA, Blogger does remove pages that include the (reported) illegal links, but generally the blog itself (with dozens, if not hundreds of other illegal download links to other films) remains online, even after receiving multiple DMCAs. Note that these sites aren’t offering any original editorial content. They are sites dedicated solely to disseminating illegal links and streams to popular films, willfully disregarding Google’s stated policies. Yet even after receiving complaints, the “Google Team” allows these sites to remain in operation.
As with most pirate sites, it’s not an altruistic endeavor, but one driven by the profit-motive. These sites feature ads, often requiring users to click-thru an advertisement before reaching the “free” download most often hosted on a cyber-locker site.
Yet, as is often the case with Google products and services, transparency is an anathema. Why not be specific about the criteria used to “disable” these pirate blogs. How many violations does it take? Why not institute a 3-strike policy? The site operator would receive a warning on the first strike, advertising would be disabled on a second strike (this is an option in the Blogger dashboard) and a third strike would result in the site being removed. As with any DMCA complaint, the site operator should be able to counter any notice sent in error. Simple as that.
Google’s Blogger platform makes website creation easy. Why not do more to make operating a pirate site hard?