Perfect Pitch

We were having a chat in the Clearleft office today about site stats and their relative uselessness; numbers about bounce rates are like eyetracking data—without knowing the context, they’re not going to tell you anything.

Anyway, I was reminded that I have an account over at Google Webmaster Tools set up for three of my sites: adactio.com, huffduffer.com and thesession.org. I logged in today for the first time in ages and started poking around.

I noticed that I had some unread messages. Who knew that Google Webmaster Tools has a messaging system? I guess all software really does evolve until it can send email.

One of the messages had the subject line Blocked URLs:

For legal reasons, we’ve excluded from our search results content located at or under the following URL/directory:

http://www.thesession.org/discussions/display/21250

This content has been removed from all Google search results.

Cause: Somone has filed a DMCA complaint against your site.

What now?

I visited the URL and found a fairly tame discussion about Perfect Pitch. Here’s the only part of the discussion that references an external resource in a non-flattering light:

I think that is referring to www.PerfectPitch.com. I’m not saying anything about such commercially-oriented courses because I don’t know them, but I think we’d all be wise to bear in mind the general comments voiced in the first two posts on this thread.

That single reference to a third-party site is, apparently, enough to trigger a DMCA complaint.

Google link to the complaint on Chilling Effects but that just says The cease-and-desist or legal threat you requested is not yet available. It does, however, list the party who sent the complaint: Boucherle.

By a staggering coincidence, Gary Boucherle of American Educational Music, Inc. is registered as the owner of perfectpitch.com.

So let’s get this straight. In a discussion about perfect pitch, someone mentions the website perfectpitch.com. They don’t repost any materials from the site. They don’t even link to the site. They don’t really say anything particularly disparaging. But it all takes is for the owner of perfectpitch.com to abuse the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act with a spurious complaint and just like that, Google removes the discussion from its search index.

To be fair, Google also explain how to file a counter-complaint. However, the part about agreeing to potentially show up in a court in California is somewhat off-putting for those of us, like me, who live outside the United States of America.

There is another possible explanation for this insane over-reaction; one that would explain why the offended party sent the complaint to Google rather than going down the more traditional route of threatening the ISP

The Session has pretty good Google juice. The markup is pretty lean, the content is semantically structured and there’s plenty of inbound links. Could it be that the owner of perfectpitch.com sent a DMCA complaint to Google simply because another site was getting higher rankings for the phrase “perfect pitch”? If so, then that’s a whole new level of SEO snake-oilery.

Hmmm… that gives me an idea.

If you have a blog or other personal publishing platform, perhaps you would like to write a post titled Perfect Pitch? Feel free to republish anything from this post, which is also coincidentally titled Perfect Pitch. And feel free to republish the contents of the original discussion on The Session titled, you guessed it: Perfect Pitch.

Update: Thanks for inbound links, everyone. The matter is now being resolved. I have received an apology from Gary Bourcherle who was being more stupid than evil.

Have you published a response to this? :