Google has published another transparency report, showing the number of court, police and other requests for data removal that they’ve received over a six month period. The report includes a blog post and a handily-filterable chart. The results? Well, surprising or not, the United States is second only to Brazil in the number of court-ordered removal requests to Google’s offices. And whereas Google complied with 69% of Brazil’s requests, they complied with only 40% of the US requests.
On the subject of police and other requests, the United States stands in third place behind South Korea and leading the pack, India. Clearly, India has some unreasonable requests, as Google complied with only twenty percent. But they complied with 80% of S. Korea’s requests compared to a dismal 44% of the US requests.
It’s hard to get too worked up over these numbers, as we’re accepting a private company’s interpretation of law and privacy. It would also be interesting to see these same numbers normalized by population: its hard to imagine a scenario where Switzerland would make more removal requests than the United States, given the huge difference in population. There is also a potential content disparity: studies have estimated that 68% of content on the web is in English, with a large share of that coming from the United States. Mo pages, mo problems.
Still, it does make me curious just what the United States is requesting and what branches and levels of our government are making these requests. It would be easy – and misguided – to assume that the Black Helicopter crew at the NSA was secretly conducting cyber-info-warfare on the populace. But since the report does not specifically differentiate between federal and local governments, its hard to know exactly where the requests are coming from.
Government – Google Transparency Report
Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from our services. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations.
The First Amendment Center has a shocking article up about a case currently before the SCOTUS involving Public Domain works.
Public Domain works are those whose copyright has expired and are generally regarded by most to be “free” works. Shakespeare plays and classical music are two examples of things which, while you may pay for a printed version, are entirely free at least in the sense of intellectual property. You don’t have to pay anyone to perform a Mozart concerto and you can quote Shakespeare to your hearts content without fear of copyright infringement lawsuits.
But as the article below notes, that’s not always the case, as Congress passed a law in 1994 making it possible to return works from the public domain back into copyrightable properties. This case concerned works considered in the public domain in the United States, but still copywrited in Europe. The effect of that law has been that the copyrights to works of classical music – such as Peter and the Wolf, the song most of us learned to identify musical instruments by in the second grade – have been reacquired and are now off-limits to any but the wealthiest classical orchestras (sort of an oxymoron, really).
So here we have a case of copyright where its not software, not medical technology or any of the other hot-button IP issues. Yet this closing of public domain access can have a potentially chilling effect on the arts in schools. Of course, it is a free speech issue. Especially since the “contours of copyright law,” as they are referred to in the SCOTUS case, are designed with a pretty clear intent of giving inventors control over their own works *while they live* and bequeathing those rights to the public after the inventor’s death. Its meant both to eliminate the possibility of unlimited monopoly and also to allow ideas to flow freely.
Whats at stake for free speech in copyright case | First Amendment Center – news, commentary, analysis on free speech, press, religion, assembly, petition.
And lord knows, it’s complicated:
“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”
Well, gosh darnit. There ya go, ho, ya done it again. The media discussing you is an example of them exercising their right to free speech, not limiting your own. Now, candidates for president suggesting the media should not contradict them, that’s a threat to free speech.
But then, she is a Republican. I think our last Republican President got used to the idea that “Freedom of Speech” had nothing to do with whether or not the president is supposed to listen to the public’s opinion. Let’s not let another president so benighted occupy the White House.
I remember getting a video pulled from my account by YouTube a while back. It was a video of The Daily Show, and so copyright was admittedly a bit murky: on the one hand, rebroadcasting clips of television shows is generally copyright violation, but since it’s a kind of current events show (some people actually learn more about the news from TDS than from their network news, big surprise) and since I’m a blogger who does the pseudo-journalistic thing, an argument could be made for “fair use.”
But as YouTube has become – along with many other social video services – a standard of presenting media on the Internet, more and more content has gotten pulled by YouTube for more and more questionable rationales. Free speech covers things like fair use, parody and other uses of otherwise copyrighted material. But with thousands of videos getting posted per day, the need to regulate copyright and the need to protect free speech in a large volume, rapid fire environment are highly competitive necessities.
Enter YouTomb, the MIT student project dedicated to cataloging YouTube video removals, their owners, their viewers and what reasons the vids get pulled for:
YouTomb Keeps an Eye on YouTube’s Graveyard | The Underwire from Wired.com
Jansen says the site’s opaque policies spurred the YouTomb project.”We aren’t trying to be antagonistic at all,” said Jansen. “We understand YouTube has a business to run. But at the same time, we’re not sure where it ends.”
Alongside a screenshot of each clip deemed in violation, YouTomb lets users see who posted the offending video, how many views it got before being pulled, when it was removed and by whom (for instance at the request of the user, a media company or third-party).