Blogger Battle Update: Victory is mine!

I’m very happy to report that my counter claim with Blogger was successful, and both of the wrongfully “deleted” posts (see this post) have been reinstated.

Yesterday, I sent an email to Blogger regarding the two posts that were “deleted” (suspended really) due to the false infringement claims by IFPI. I said that I hadn’t bothered to file a counter claim on the second deleted post since Blogger broke their promise of reinstating the first one despite no legal action being taken within the required waiting period. I ended with “Blogger’s continuing censorship of my writing due to false infringement claims has finally destroyed what little trust I had left in your company. After seven years at Blogspot.com, I am looking for a new host for my 100% legal music blog.”

Obviously I reached the cold heart of Google. ;p Today I received this reply from Blogger:

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention; we apologize for the further inconvenience you’ve experienced with some of the content rights issues on your blog. When we receive a DMCA notice, by law we are required to comply with these notices or we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits. We’ve informed IFPI that we’ve received reports on their removal requests where the content complained of was apparently previously approved by the rightsholder. We have asked them to confirm with content owners that they have not authorized specific uses of their content before submitting removal requests to us. You should contact the PR company you work with and make sure that they’ve communicated to the record label that they’ve given permission for the distribution of certain songs on music blogs. It is the record labels and/or their representatives that instruct IFPI and similar trade associations on the content they want taken down. With that being said, we have restored the following posts back to your blog. They are stored as draft versions, therefore you will need to republish them online.”

I removed the mp3 links from the posts and added notes about the false claims before re-publishing them. I really don’t know if my victory will prevent Blogger from deleting future posts. Despite their apparent warning to IFPI about verifying their claims before filing removal requests, Blogger has made it clear that their priority is to protect themselves from legal action. So as long as IFPI keeps asking for posts to be removed, I suspect Blogger will keep removing them without verification. At least now I know counter claims work and that Muruch won’t be deleted before it gets transferred to its own domain (which will hopefully be at the end of this month).

Blogger Battle Update: Muruch May Be Moving

I had hoped to post about my victorious counter claim in two days when my Joey+Rory review is scheduled to be reinstated. But I just received another bogus infringement claim on mp3s I had permission to post, so instead this entry is to notify readers that Muruch will probably be moving soon.

I’m hoping to move Muruch to its own domain, but it will depend on whether a free hosting deal I’ve been offered works out and if I can get some help setting it up. If not, I’ll transfer to a another free blogging service. Either way, it shouldn’t effect feed subscribers, just bookmarks and blogrolls that use the url of the actual blog.

Following is a recap of my counter claim saga for anyone who hasn’t kept up along with some updates:

A few months ago, Blogger began deleting posts on several music blogs due to copyright infringement claims (many of which were unverified). My Joey+Rory review (re-posted here) was deleted in October without any advanced warning or notice afterward, despite my having permission from Sugar Hill Records (the copyright holder of the recording) to post the mp3 in the review. I could only assume this was due to a false infringement claim, so I mailed a counter claim to Blogger in November documenting what happened and showing that my authorization from the label for the mp3. It was a frightening process, as I had to take responsibility for any legal fees, but Sugar Hill’s support gave me courage.

Weeks went by with no response from Blogger, so I emailed them at the beginning of December asking for the status of the counter claim. Coincidentally, after I commented on WireTap Magazine‘s article regarding this matter, I finally received an email from Blogger. They initially said that they hadn’t received my counter claim, then they said they really didn’t know if they had received it due to a backlog of counter claims. They requested that I email a copy of my counter claim to them, which I did.

Blogger responded again saying that they would forward my counter claim to the complainant, and that the deleted post would be reinstated if said complainant did not take legal action within 14 days. Sugar Hill assured me that their authorization would prevent such legal action, so I was relieved that my counter claim seemed to have been successful and have since been waiting for the review to be reinstated

After several requests and finally a strongly worded demand from me, Blogger finally revealed that it was the IFPI that filed the infringement claim against me. I informed my contacts at Sugar Hill, and it would seem the complaint was due to breakdown in communication between Sugar Hill Records (who gave me authorization), the U.S. licensing company (Welk), and their UK distributor (EMI), who is represented by IFPI. Sadly, even the record label admits they have less power than the enforcement organizations. So while their authorization protects me from legal action, it didn’t prevent IFPI from filing another claim against me or Blogger from deleting another review.

I emailed IFPI directly and offered my full cooperation in hopes of preventing future conflicts, but have so far received no response. Instead, I received a second takedown notice today from Blogger due to another complaint filed by IFPI regarding the two Sam Phillips mp3s I posted this week (Blogger also deleted that post without warning). The mp3s weren’t even hosted on my server, they were on the website of the PR firm Toolshed, who represent Nonesuch Records (Phillips label) and gave me permission to post the mp3 links. Both Toolshed and Nonesuch Records were apologetic, but they seem as powerless as Sugar Hill against EMI (their distributor) and IFPI. So I don’t think I’ll be able to file another counter claim.

I personally don’t think it’s right to boycott artists over mp3 issues, so none of this will change who or what I review on Muruch. Regular readers are already accustomed to my publishing major label reviews without music, and I will continue to post mp3s by independent artists who are free to do what they want with their own music. However, I will no longer post mp3s by artists represented by Sugar Hill Records, Toolshed, Nonesuch Records, or any other artist, label, or company involved in these Blogger deletions until they can give me some assurance that I will be protected from IFPI infringement claims.

I urge any music bloggers who have had legal posts (containing mp3s with permission from the record label or other copyright holder) deleted by Blogger to file a counter claim (instructions here). The language of Blogger’s content policy is intimidating, but all you need is to include a copy of your authorization email from the label. At least one other blog (Patch Arcadia) has had a post reinstated after filing a counter claim, so it is definitely worth fighting when you have a clear case. But my days as the legal blogging poster child for this Blogger battle are over, and I’m moving on.

I had originally planned to stick it out with Blogger, because Muruch has been hosted by them for seven years and I really feel the fault here lies with the music industry. But since Blogger’s content policy states that repeat claims may result in the entire blog being deleted, I feel I have no choice but to move Muruch elsewhere. As I said, it will either be transferred to another free blogging service or its own domain. Stay tuned.

No Holiday Music Here

I’m already receiving emails containing Christmas music. Regular readers may have noticed in previous years that I haven’t posted holiday music here. I won’t be posting any kind of holiday music this year either, so please don’t bother submitting or requesting Christmas songs. No offense intended to anyone, it’s just not my thing. 🙂

No One Is Safe On Blogger

As you may have read elsewhere, several music blogs have recently been censored by Blogger (Google). Entire posts have been deleted without warning due to so-called “copyright infringement”. Such actions would not usually effect a 100% legal blog like Muruch, but unfortunately even legal bloggers like myself are being victimized by this process.

I just discovered that Blogger deleted my Joey+Rory review without notifying me before or after. Since Blogger is now tied into Gmail, there is absolutely no reason for them not to contact me at least after the fact. Especially since their own copyright policy states they would “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”.

The mp3 in the Joey+Rory review was posted with the permission of Sugar Hill Records, so my writing has been unjustly censored. I have emailed my contact at Sugar Hill Records and the label had nothing to do with this. I also emailed Google, but have so far received no response.

It would seem that neither the parties making the complaints nor Google (who now owns Blogger) are bothering to check the actual legal status of the mp3 in question before they delete the posts. I’ve been told that at least one major label has an automated bot that may be the cause, but I don’t think that would affect artists on Sugar Hill Records.

Though I understand that the growing number of illegal blogs must make it difficult for Blogger to review each individual post, it seems detrimental to the copyright cause to automatically punish the innocent along with the guilty. They should at least give advance warning or simply revert the posts to draft so they are no longer viewable to the public in order to prevent these kinds of wrongful deletions.

There is currently a mass exodus underway as music blogs are moving to WordPress.com or their own domains (or shutting down completely) in the wake of Blogger’s attacks. I have begun transferring Muruch to WordPress, but did not do it in time to save the Joey+Rory review. And I have no idea if other reviews have also been deleted.

I have sacrificed a lot of time and traffic to keep Muruch a 100% legal blog. All mp3s hosted on my own server have been uploaded with the permission of the artist, label, manager, or PR rep and are usually removed within two weeks. This required a lot of work and even more patience, but obviously all my effort was for nothing.

It’s been increasingly difficult to obtain permission to post mp3s and this new development will most likely mean even less to download here…at least for a while. I hope that regular readers will stick around for my writing and recommendations, and bear with me while I try to sort this out.

If you care about the blogs you read, complain to Blogger/Google (removals@google.com) about what is happening.

My Requests

Someone recently asked what I want from readers, bloggers, PR reps, etc. So here are my answers…

Readers/Bloggers:

1. Please don’t hotlink my mp3s or images, all of which are posted with permission.

2. Please don’t copy and re-post exactly what I’ve written without credit (as in a link to my site and some indication that the content has been quoted). I don’t expect or care about credit if someone posts about the same music (the more, the merrier!), just don’t steal my words.

3. If you enter and win one of my contests, please reply to my email asking for your mailing address within a freakin’ month. Otherwise the prize is going to someone else.

4. Please don’t ask to be added to my blogroll if you post full albums or lists of mp3 downloads without any original content. To each his own, but I’m just not into that.

5. Please comment if you like something, or even if you don’t. 🙂

PR Companies, Labels, Artists, etc. :

1. Please put the name of the band you are actually emailing about in the subject line, not some tricky reference to another band that has nothing to do with them. A genre description would be nice, too.

2. Please don’t say you will send a CD if you won’t. And don’t bother asking me to post any mp3s, videos, or contests if you can’t at least give me a digital download of the entire album (I prefer CDs). I like to know what I’m endorsing, thank you very much.

3. Please let me know what the mp3 policy is for the CD if you do send it, or at least answer my first email asking for permission instead of waiting until after I post the review. Otherwise, I’ll assume that it’s okay to post an mp3.

4. Please do not email me more than once about a single subject, it just clogs my inbox and makes me more likely to ignore what you are sending.

5. Please do not ask me to hold a review or mp3 just so a “bigger” blog can post it first, or at least be honest if that is what you are doing.

Ps. The above was not directed toward any of the nice PR people that I’ve had a “working relationship” with – if I’ve replied to your emails, posted your music, etc. I really do appreciate the free music! It just gets a little overwhelming sometimes. 🙂