Friday, December 14, 2012

I won one against Google

Being the ersatz filmmaker/journalist/visionary that I am, I occasionally quote or use content on my blogs that may be owned by others.

This is, of course, common practice on the internet and in other forms of media, and it often falls under the doctrine of "fair use", especially when used to promote something.

So, a couple years ago I posted a quick article about Gorman Bechard's 2009 film "Friends (With Benefits)" promoting the fact that it was viewable online at a free website.

And all was well with the world.

Until I got an email last month from Blogger, the Google-run free blogging service, that notified me a blog post of mine was in violation of copyright law.

Seriously? This is weird. Especially when I read the complaint:
Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog is alleged to infringe upon the copyrights of others. As a result, we have reset the post(s) to \"draft\" status. (If we did not do so, we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits. The URL(s) of the allegedly infringing post(s) may be found at the end of this message.) This means your post - and any images, links or other content - is not gone. You may edit the post to remove the offending content and republish, at which point the post in question will be visible to your readers again.

A bit of background: the DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. If you believe you have the rights to post the content at issue here, you can file a counter-claim. In order to file a counter-claim, please see

The notice that we received, with any personally identifying information removed, will be posted online by a service called Chilling Effects at We do this in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). You can search for the DMCA notice associated with the removal of your content by going to the Chilling Effects search page at, and entering in the URL of the blog post that was removed.

If it is brought to our attention that you have republished the post without removing the content/link in question, then we will delete your post and count it as a violation on your account. Repeated violations to our Terms of Service may result in further remedial action taken against your Blogger account including deleting your blog and/or terminating your account. DMCA notices concerning content on your blog may also result in action taken against any associated AdSense accounts. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.

The Blogger Team

Affected URLs:

I went back and looked at the blog post in question. There was an image of the movie poster, and a link to a streaming video website that was completely legit and was showing the film with the knowledge of the filmmaker. BTW, the link is now dead as no longer exists.

I wrote to Gorman and let him know about my problem with Google, and I asked him if it was OK that I had used the poster image and the link on my blog.

Here's his response:
That is very strange.  Could it be because its no longer on FanCast?  Perhaps remove the link and all will be ok. Otherwise, forward them this email as I am the sole copyright holder, and am giving you permission to blog about the film.

Gorman Bechard

So I replied to Blogger Support with this explanation and I filed a "counter notification":
I contacted the sole copyright owner of the film, Gorman Bechard, and he has responded to me via email that I have full permission to use the image in the blog posting, along with the link to the streaming video site that allows people to view his film. So there is no copyright violation in play. I can provide a copy of his emails to me if required.

DMCA counter-notification form

The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider safe harbor in case of copyright infringement. The administrator of an affected site or the provider of affected content may make a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other applicable law. When we receive a counter notification, we may reinstate the material in question.
And I filed the following information with their online form:
To file a counter notification with us, you must provide the information specified in the web form below. Please note that you can be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you misrepresent the material or if the activity is not infringing the copyrights of others. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether certain material infringes the copyrights of others, we suggest that you first contact an attorney. A sample counter notification may be found at

Please also be advised that, pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, by submitting a counter notification through our web form, your contact information will be forwarded to the original complainant.

Complainant's Information: Please provide us with information about yourself.

Name *
Enter your first and last names
Your Title
Company name
Address *
Country of residence
Contact email address *
(where confirmation email will be sent)
Phone number *

Material In Question: Identify the specific content that Google has removed or to which Google has disabled access.

URL of the content in question *
Add an additional field

Clarifications: Please provide additional details clarifying the reason for your reinstatement request.
And then I waited.

A few days later, I received this reply from Google Support:

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each
day; your message is in our queue, and we'll get to it as quickly as our
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that
we will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond
with questions or requests for clarification. For more information on
Google's Terms of Service, please visit

We appreciate your patience as we investigate your request.

The Google Team
Fine. I fully expected it would be weeks or months before they got to it, and once they would, I figured they'd deny my counter notification as a matter of routine.

Plus, they didn't give me any information about the exact complaint or who may have filed it. Judging from the content of my blog, I could received literally hundreds of notices like this. But Blogger is totally mum about the complaint. It certainly didn't come from Gorman, and he's the sole copyright holder of the film and the poster image.

What worries me the most is the seemingly random nature of this complaint. For someone to focus on a two year-old blog post that contains so little that could possibly be considered a copyright violation is troubling at best.

To my mild surprise, here's their prompt reply:
We have received your DMCA counter notification dated {11/09/12} regarding
}. As described in 17 U.S.C. 512(g), we will forward the counter
notification to the complainant. If we do not receive notice from the
complainant that s/he has brought an action in the district court within
14 days, we will reinstate the material in question on Blogger. We
appreciate your patience in this process.

The Blogger Team
This looks a lot like progress. As something of a cynic, I was pleasantly surprised. They didn't address the actual nature or wording of the original complaint, but they promised to follow up with the original complainant.

So, two weeks later, they followed up with this missive:

In accordance with the DMCA, we have completed processing your counter notification and we have reinstated the content in question on 2010/10/watch-friends-with- benefits-online.html
This post has been restored in draft version. You will need to sign into your account and republish it. Please let us know if we can assist you further.

The Blogger Team

You mean I won?

That's all?

Yup. That's that.

Honestly, I found this sudden outcome curiously unsatisfying. I was expecting more of a fight. I was all revved up with lots of righteous indignation, and then they just upped and gave in? That kind of sucks.

Now what do I do? What am I supposed to do with all this pent up anger?

Write a blog post about it, I guess.

Which resulted in this unnecessarily wordy thing you're currently reading!

(Don't worry, it's almost over.)

They reinstated the blog post, but they lost the original date it was posted, which was some time during October of 2010. So it appears on my Blogger timeline on Nov. 27th of this year. Which makes it kind of anachronistic. Especially since the streaming website is gone.

But you can still view the film online for free, and I still endorse this quirky and sexy indie comedy, at