Last week, several high-profile, much-loved music blogs disappeared from Google's Blogspot service, after they were targetted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI -- the international version of the RIAA). IFPI defended its action by saying "Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies' content on the internet."
But IFPI didn't target pirate websites here. Among the sites it took down was I Rock Cleveland, a site whose author, Bill Lipold, painstakingly sought and received explicit permission to post every single track and excerpt he put up (though in many cases, he could have relied on fair use rather than going to the effort).
By using the law to annihilate labors of love like I Rock Cleveland, sites that obeyed all the rules and sought permission from the copyright holders at every turn, IFPI's message is simple: "Don't bother getting permission. Just take stuff. You're wasting your time trying to obey the law. It all comes out the same in the end -- we don't care whether you obey our rules or not."
IFPI will argue that it was just trying to help artists, that everyone makes mistakes, that copyright is complicated. But these are exactly the same arguments that the musicbloggers whose sites were vanished by IFPI's abusive lawyering would have made, if they'd been given a chance.
And the artists, the human shields in whose name IFPI is doing all of this? They don't want it, don't need it, and don't understand it. As one band's publicist wrote, "Just so you know, this is none of our doing...apparently, DMCA operate on their own set of odd rules, as they even requested that the (band's) official blog remove the song....What a headache..."
Targeted bloggers need to know these details, not only so that they can remove the file if it's indeed infringing, but so that they can file a DMCA counter-notice in the event that the file is not infringing.
Music Journalism is the New Piracy
Ordinarily, the party issueing the takedown notice would be required by US copyright law to specify which content is being accused. But, as an international organization headquartered in London, IFPI is arguing that it doesn't even need to play by the USA's rules. "We neither admit nor accept," they write, "...that Google is entitled to be served a notice in compliance with the DMCA." Translation: IFPI is essentially threatening to sue Google under some unspecified foreign law -- presumably one which lacks even the modest safe-harbor provisions available in the USA. It's no wonder Google felt the need to take drastic action to avoid liability, even at the expense of the resulting headaches and bad press.