Judging by reports from several tech blogs this week, it appears Microsoft do not subscribe to the old maxim that there’s no such thing as bad publicity…
Microsoft allegedly issued DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices against a number of website posts that may have included negative reviews/comments on Windows 8.
Google responded to these DMCA orders by de-listing the relevant posts from Google search i.e. the posts may still exist on the websites – but nobody will ever find them… [unless they use a different search engine]
Betanews received such a takedown notice and summed up the feelings of many website publishers with their advice to Microsoft: “Back down and apologize while you still can. Because I won’t cow before you, and neither will other editors whose sites you seek to censor”.
What caused their takedown notice to be issued? Betanews contend that the only material which could possibly infringe copyright was a photo taken from Microsoft’s own News Center website i.e. publicity/press material – surely acceptable for editorial inclusion under existing fair use guidelines?
A Google image search for the same image revealed that many other sites also published it – but only a few of those appear to have been issued with a DMCA takedown notice. Conspiracy theorists surmise that only sites with highly critical reviews of Windows 8 have been affected – this would be an attempt to censor the internet which would not go down well with tech journalists.
Certainly, it is fair to say that many people view Windows 8 as a ‘marmite’ operating system – even before launch.
Although many articles praise its speed and stability, there are many others (e.g. from Steam’s boss: Windows 8 – A Catastrophe) lamenting the shoehorning of two disparate user interfaces into one – the traditional desktop (sans Start Button) along with the tablet oriented not-called-Metro-any-more tiled interface.
What is even more worrying is that the takedown notices are alleged to have targeted innocent sites too – Ghacks say they were served with a takedown notice for a tag page which contained no pictures or other copyright infringing information.
Such a scattergun approach to takedown notices would be an indication of the dangers that DMCA poses to free speech – Google noted back in 2009 that:
“more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US DMCA 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims”.
It appears not much has changed. Companies can fire off notices like buckshot in the (usually correct) expectation that smaller website owners do not have the resources to take legal action against malicious or incorrect notice requests…
In Microsoft’s case, if it were true that unflattering articles were being removed from search results, it would only add more oxygen to the fire of bad publicity that many tech journalists have already (rightly or wrongly) heaped on Windows 8…
Update: Betanews have posted an update from the Online Piracy Senior Program Manager at Microsoft:
“Microsoft is committed to ensuring that copyright is respected online. To protect our intellectual property, Microsoft’s anti-piracy programs target links to infringing copies of our software; we do not target commentary. Based upon our review of these forum threads as they currently stand, we’ve determined they no longer contain links to infringing copies of our software, and we have contacted Google about reinstating the search results.” [my italics]
So that’s alright then…