Hollywood and the music industry have long complained that Google profits from web piracy by allowing these website to sign up and earn money from Google's Adsense program. But as part of Google's copyrightfriendly makeover, Google's new crackdown on Adsense publishers may be causing collateral damage.
Cody Jackson, while serving in Iraq, wrote a book on Python programming titled Start Programming with Python. In the spirit of open source and giving back to a community he's learned so much from, Jackson decided to distribute his book free of charge from his website. To support his little endeavour, donations were welcomed, and Google Adsense ads were placed on the website to help keep it running.
But Jackson's "mistake" was to decide to use the power of BitTorrent to help distribute his book. BitTorrent would allow Jackson to distribute the popular book without incurring a huge web hosting bill, a win-win for all involved. Well, except for Jackson.
Having detected links to The Pirate Bay and Demonoid, the two places Jackson decided to distribute his book on, Google (well at least the automated script they use to detect piracy activities) acted promptly and banned Jackson's Adsense account.
In other words, Google banned an author from distributing his own book (published under a Creative Commons license), simply because he chose to use The Pirate Bay and Demonoid to do so.
Jackson rightly appealed the decision, and while Google promised (via a form email) to review the matter, the review still found Jackson's Blogger website (Blogger, incidentally, also owned by Google) to be in violation. It wasn't until Techdirt published his plight that Google, a mere five hours after the Techdirt article went live, relented and allowed Jackson to put the ads back up.
Posting on his blog, Jackson was glad the issue was eventually resolved, although only thanks to external help (others may not be so lucky!), but worried about the state of the Internet when things like this happen. "When a person is unable to post his/her own products on the 'net because someone fears copyright infringement has occurred, there is a definite problem," wrote Jackson.
As for linking to TPB and Demonoid, Jackson has learned his lesson and will be hosting the torrent files himself from now on. While this is a pragmatic solution to a much larger problem, Jackson still feels that it's wrong for TPB/Demonoid to be demonized in this way, as he is prove that their website, and BitTorrent, can be used for legitimate purposes too.
"Just because other people post copyrighted material on there doesn't mean they are wholly "evil". They are simply tools, much like a knife. It can be used for good or bad purposes, but in and of itself, it is only a device to be used," Jackson concluded.