Love it or hate it, for now the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is the law of the land when it comes to safeguarding creative content online. The law, passed nearly 20 years ago, is woefully outdated, but for now, it’s the only tool creators have to protect their work from online thieves. Unfortunately, not every company in the business of “user generated content” approaches DMCA compliance the same way.
Google, a company that makes billions each year in ad revenues generated via trafficking in dubious content, has set up a takedown system that ensures the sending of a DMCA takedown notice is an onerous and inefficient task. After all, the harder Google makes it, the more discouraged creators will become, and the more money continues to flow into its coffers…
Anyone who’s made music or a movie probably has had experience with sending a DMCA takedown request to Google in some form. Whether it’s removing pirated music on YouTube, or requesting the takedown of pirated movies off Blogger sites, creators must tackle a haphazard and convoluted patchwork of online forms in order to get their work removed from Google’s online products.
Not that Google will listen to me, but I’m going to offer some suggestions for simple ways the company could improve the takedown system. Part I will focus on Blogger, Google’s online website platform that’s become the favorite of many pirate entrepreneurs due to its ease of use.
As a creator, when you discover a pirate website hosted by Google’s Blogger (on blogspot.com) is offering pirated copies of your music or movie, to get it removed you usually have to send a DMCA notice to Google.
Here’s where Google turns what could be a relatively easy task into a huge time suck. First, in order to find the correct online form for Blogger you’re forced to click through a myriad of radio-buttons on Google’s Removing Content From Google page. When you finally do manage to click your way through to the proper form (it takes 7 clicks) you’ll waste more time carefully filling in each and every section. Note, your browser’s auto-fill function won’t work particularly well here. Finally, after you complete the form and click send, you can only wait (and hope) that the content will be removed. It can literally take weeks and sometimes it never gets removed.
Here’s where it gets particularly annoying. Many companies, take the video-hosting site Vimeo, for example, give rights holders several ways to send a takedown notice: email, a web form or snail mail. When sending a DMCA to Vimeo (and many other sites) I use a template I created (with an attorney’s help) that makes it easy to copy and paste infringing links into a DMCA takedown email. It’s not only quick, but I have a record of the notice in my sent email box. For indie content creators fighting online piracy, email is by far the most efficient way to send and record DMCA notices. As far as I’m concerned, Vimeo earns a gold start for DMCA takedown efficiency.
Vimeo provides a shining example of good DMCA takedown practices:
- Vimeo accepts email submissions. It’s quick and efficient–a godsend if you have to send notices routinely (as many musicians and filmmakers do).
- You have a copy of the DMCA notice you sent and proof of when it was sent.
- You receive an email confirmation from Vimeo that the material has been removed and their message includes a copy of your original DMCA notice.
- Vimeo provides a reference # so that if there are any issues with your notice, you can easily follow-up with the real person that signs the email receipt.
Meanwhile, over at Google, things aren’t so straightforward. Each time I send a DMCA takedown to Google via its web form, if I want to keep a copy, I’m forced to create a PDF copy of web form. Even then some of the entries don’t show up. For the rights holder it’s an imperfect and time-wasting process. Google has intentionally created a takedown process that impedes creators at every step.
Google’s Blogger takedown procedure is a joke:
- Google requires users navigate through a series of buttons (7 clicks) to get to the DMCA web takedown form.
- Google requires you fill in the entire form each time you need to sent a takedown notice.
- Google does not give you a copy of the form you sent, only a brief acknowledgement that you sent something signed by the mysterious “Google Team.”
- Sender never receives notification infringing material has been disabled.
Because of their business practices, Google does have to deal with tons of takedown notices every day. It’s a mess of its own making and they certainly have the financial resources to deal with it responsibly. Google reps insist a web form is the only way to make sure they receive the information required in a DMCA notice. However, their refusal to accept emails (that could be read by a bot) forces indie artists who routinely send takedown requests to its web maze.
Since users are forced to use a DMCA web form, there’s certainly NO justifiable reason Google can’t respond with an email confirmation that includes the original takedown notice. After all, that’s an automated process and would require ZERO resources on their part. Google chooses not to do so because they want to make the process as opaque and complicated as possible. While it complies with the letter of the law, Google has refined a system whereby creators are discouraged from exercising their legal rights at every turn.
Google’s DMCA practices are designed to impede rights holders every step of the way
Google includes a case number in the subject heading of the email, but don’t bother trying to contact Google using it. The “Google Team” won’t respond. So what’s the case number good for? Not much.
As for turnaround time-when I send VIMEO a notice within hours the content has been removed (and I receive an email confirmation along with a copy of my notice). With Google it can literally take weeks…and sometimes nothing happens…ever.
In order to improve the DMCA system on Blogger I would ask for the following:
- Offer a direct link to the Blogger DMCA takedown form
- Allow the form to be auto-filled and if one has a Google account information the form would be pre-filled with the appropriate information
- Send an email receipt that includes a copy of the DMCA notice
- Send confirmation when the infringing content has been disabled
- Remove content in a timely manner. This means days, NOT weeks.
For a company like Google that can take us to the top of Mt. Everest with the click of a mouse it’s beyond comprehension as to why they can’t offer content creators a better way to utilize the DMCA process. Google periodically publishes puff PR pieces extolling the myriad of ways it supposedly tackles piracy, but in reality helps maintain the status quo where the rights of online thieves are held in higher regard than those of creators. Of course for Google impeding the legal rights of creators is good for business. Profits ahead of people is the key to Google’s success.
Next week-Part II-YouTube’s DMCA CMS takedown, another inefficient mess for rights holders.