Over the years, as Google has grown into the giant megalith that it is today, you often hear users complaining that the customer service department is atrocious and rumor has it that it is actually run by robots without an ounce of human compassion or understanding.
A recent issue to emerge is the fact that Google seem overtly aggressive in their bid to enforce copyright – in their efforts to keep Hollywood and the music industry happy.
The story featured by Techdirt about one of their readers, a Mr. Cody Jackson, will serve to support such rumors.
A little while ago, Jackson wrote a book entitled “Start Programming With Python” whilst deployed in Iraq. He decided to make this book available free of charge on the internet as a way of showing his thanks to the open source community, because he felt that they had provided him with “tremendous value” over the years.
The book has always been free and is linked to various sources like The Pirate Bay where it can be downloaded. He did provide the option for satisfied readers to support him via donations and also made a little bit of extra cash from Google AdSense adverts on his site.
Last week he received an email (undoubtedly from a Google automaton) stating that his AdSense had been halted, because according to them, he was distributing copyrighted content illegally.
An excerpt from this email reads:
“COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL: As stated in our program policies, AdSense publishers are not permitted to place Google ads on sites involved in the distribution of copyrighted materials. This includes hosting copyrighted files on your site, as well as providing links for or driving traffic to sites that contain copyrighted material.”
As Techdirt point out, this is rather nonsensical to say the least, “basically EVERY website ‘contains copyrighted material.” What they probably mean is “unauthorized” or “infringing” copyrighted material, but that is not what the email states and considering that Jackson’s work belongs to him and he is perfectly within his rights to give it away for free if he chooses to, then it is difficult to see exactly what their problem is!
In the email, they offer a link to an ‘example’ page that they deem problematic and one of the reasons why they have disabled Jackson’s AdSense. This page is where Jackson states that he has put a torrent of the 2nd edition of his book up on The Pirate Bay and Demonoid.
Techdirt said: “You could argue that Google’s terms here are overbroad and perhaps they’re within those rules. But saying that you can’t link to legitimate content that you yourself released on the Pirate Bay could have a real chilling effect for those who choose to put their own works on such sites.”
Jackson reached out to Google attempting to shed some light on the situation and explained that he is both the author and publisher and his work does not violate any copyright because it is published under a Creative Commons BY-SA license making the copies on the torrent sites legal.
Seems fair enough, you could understand how Google could make this error and you would imagine that after receiving Jackson’s explanatory email, they would make moves to rectify the situation. But that’s not what happened. Instead Jackson receives another email thanking him for the additional information but stating however that they would not restore AdSense as his account “appears to still be in violation.”
At this point, Jackson begrudgingly removed the links to the torrent files and contacted Google again with the updated information. Yet the response from them was less than satisfactory, they told him he was still in violation of AdSense terms but failed to elaborate as to why!!
This really is a case of copyright craziness! Jackson has been punished for doing something which is 100% legal and authorized, yet despite repeated efforts to explain this to the Google department that contacted him, they refused to listen and insist that he is still violating some indefinable term and condition.
This is just the experiences of one man in his crusade to get some answers out of Google’s customer service department, but it represents an ominous precedent to every author/musician/artist/creative out there who wants to make their work available online.
After Jackson’s story went viral, Google emailed him stating they had re-reviewed his case and determined that he is not violating their copyright policies and therefore could have Google ads publish on his blog again.