Never rely on something you get for nothing. That statement has had strong resonance over the last few days as Google’s free blog site Blogger has shut down a significant number of music blogs that host MP3’s including a number of high profile blogs such as Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, To Die By Your Side, I Rock Cleveland and It’s A Rap in one big sweep.
The controversy comes from Bloggers consideration that these and many other blogs had violated Bloggers DMCA agreement by posting copyright material for illegal download. This is the email that a number of bloggers received in their in box:
“We'd like to inform you that we've received another complaint regarding your blog (http://xxxxxxxx.blogspot.com/). Upon review of your account, we've noted that your blog has repeatedly violated Blogger's Terms of Service (http://www.blogger.com/terms.g). Given that we've provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we've been forced to remove your blog. Thank you for your understanding. Sincerely, The Blogger Team.”
For many bloggers this represents months or years worth of (often) unpaid work deleted at the touch of a button by Google / Blogger.
Now of course, the obvious argument is that if the blog in question has violated the terms and conditions of the terms of service then they can only expect what they get. Putting the morality of arguments aside, the legal position is clear. If you have agreed to terms of service and then have not followed those terms then Blogger could and in some cases has pulled the plug. Here’s the Google explanation of things (click here).
However not all blogs operate in the same way. Sure, those who host whole albums illegally cannot be claiming to help recording artists and in our opinion deserve to be shut down. But what of those who just host one track, or a remix, giving the artist exposure, which may then lead to increased sales? And what of those who have hosted those tracks with consent at the time from the record label / PR company or artist direct? Some of the blogs shut down claim that they had consent to host the material they were hosting. For example see here. This is where things become grey.
Here’s a simple scenario. A band sends out free tracks to bloggers to host. Later they sign a record deal and the record label decides it doesn’t want the tracks hosted anymore as it now owns the copyright. Rather than politely emailing blogs who are hosting the tracks asking for them to be removed from the blog, it adopts a heavy handed / lazy approach and complains to Blogger that these particular blogs don’t have consent to host the tracks. Blogger then emails the blog author. This happens several times in relation to a number of tracks and then ping, the whole blog is deleted. The point here is who owns the music? Does the blogger still ‘own’ the music that was given to them at the time? The issues over intellectual property in the internet age, both legally and morally are highly complex. Ownership is a grey area.
It is for this reason that Breaking More Waves has never hosted MP3’s, even though we get sent many by PR companies who state that we have permission to host. It was something we thought about long and hard before starting this blog. We don’t particularly want to see our whole blog taken down.
Of course blogs that host MP3’s gain much bigger hit counts through sites such as Hype Machine, but we don’t write this blog to get huge hits or become a ‘status / leading light / high profile’ blog. This blog is more low-key than that, but through our reasonably regular posting and sticking to our own non-hip style we are developing a small and growing core regular readership and we are very happy with that. We’re more interested in the type of person that reads our blog than the numbers. We’re not interested in those that visit the blog for 10 seconds to find an illegal download of the La Roux album. We are interested in those who are prepared to invest time in music, who like to read about it and discuss it, as well as consume it. In a way this blog is like a clichéd old school indie band. We’re doing it not just for the love of music but for some sort of questioning ideal and philosophy / argument behind music. That’s why we publish blogs about talking at gigs, why record labels are important etc. If anyone likes or reads what we write, that’s a bonus.
We have massive sympathies for the blog authors that have had their work deleted over the last few days, particularly those who try to work with the established music industry for the benefit of the art and the artist.
We only hope that following Bloggers recent actions bridges are not fully burnt and that a sensible dialogue between bloggers and the industry can occur to ensure some workable solution. Like most solutions, some compromise may be required on both sides, and at this moment in time it’s not clear if either group is in a place to do that. We’ve read one idea about some sort of ‘blog licence’. We have strong reservations about the workability and policing of such an idea. The internet being what it is there will always be those who find a way round things.
For now though if you’re on Twitter you can follow the discussions and articles that are going up under #musicblogocide2k10