*post updates added 5/16/16 and 6/28/16
It’s not news that Google-hosted Blogger websites are a favorite storefront for online pirates. It’s also not news that Google does its best to obstruct DMCA takedowns by setting up various roadblocks along the way. Today I discovered yet another example of just how difficult Google makes the DMCA process–this time with Blogger-hosted sites that use custom domain names.
When you create a blog using Blogger you’re given a domain that ends in blogspot.com. However users are free to use a custom domain name instead. That’s all well and good, unless the website distributes pirated content. In that case, if you’re a creator trying to get your pirated content removed (by Google), you’re likely to run into problems.
Usually, when one of these pirate entrepreneurs creates a site on blogspot.com a rightsholder can send a DMCA by using Google’s annoying web form (or annoy them by sending an email: email@example.com). However, if you use the same DMCA form to report a blogger-hosted site with a custom domain, Google won’t remove it. They’ll just send you back to the beginning.
I found out about this twist when I sent several DMCA notices this week on behalf of an indie film distributor. I requested the removal several pages of pirated movies I found on a Blogger-hosted website with a custom domain. The claim was rejected and the response on the Google Removals Dashboard read: Inappropriate for TCRP. Please submit through the standard web form.
TCRP stands for “Trusted Copyright Removal Program” but the problem is that I didn’t use any sort of TCRP…I wish I could, but I’m just a lowly commoner who doesn’t have access to this program. I USED THE STANDARD WEB FORM!!!!
Why–when there’s no doubt that this website is streaming a full copy of the film on a Google-hosted website–do they send me back to the same standard web form I used to send the original request? It’s an endless loop. Follow along below:
Apparently, even though Google hosts the pirate site, it refuses to remove infringing content the pirate is using a custom domain, not a blogspot.com domain. Welcome to the Google DMCA Merry-Go-Round. 🙁
When I researched the issue further I discovered I’m not the only one running into this problem. On Google’s own Blogger Help Forum there’s a recent thread about the issue. Last month a user DeeLite310 posted a question after receiving the same— Inappropriate for TCRP. Please submit through the standard web form–response to a DMCA s/he sent reporting a Blogger site pirated games.
Once again the not-so-helpful Google response was to send DeeLite310 (who’s not part of the TCRP) back the beginning of the Google Blogger DMCA merry-go-round. Here’s part of the exchange (but I suggest reading the entire thread to fully appreciate just how frustrating dealing with Google can be):
Google loves to throw the word “transparency” around a lot in discussions around how it handles DMCA requests. Too bad it doesn’t provide more transparency when creators, victimized by pirates using Google products, make good faith (legal) efforts to request the removal of infringing content. As I’ve said before, the DMCA is broken…
*Update 5/16/16: During May’s Section 512 hearings in San Francisco I spoke with Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright counsel, about my blog post. He told me that I had indeed discovered a “bug” and that Google staff was working to fix the issue. I was happy to hear that Google was responding in a positive manner to this problem. I’ll test out whether it has been fixed by resending the original DMCA notice that prompted this post. Stay tuned…
Update 6/28/16: According to Mr. Von Lohmann, the bug has been fixed.