On Saturday, I read about Sen. Stevens "The internet is a series of tubes" statement, picked up my guitar and recorded a song based on the speech. I signed the "Ted Stevens Internet Fan Club" up on MySpace and posted the track there to stream and then sent an email to BoingBoing, where Cory posted a link. Over the next two days, more than 2,500 people followed that link. (I posted anonymously because, frankly, the track doesn't sound good. Marginally funny, but only marginally.)
Tuesday morning, I received an email telling me that MySpace cancelled the Ted Stevens Internet Fan Club, because it received a complaint:
MySpace has deleted your profile because we received a credible complaint of your violation of the MySpace Terms of Services.
Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to:
-Any automated use of the system, such as using scripts and/or bots to add friends, send messages, etc.
-For band and filmmaker profiles, MySpace prohibits sexually suggestive imagery or any other unfair, misleading or deceptive content intended to draw traffic to the profile.
-MySpace also investigates credible complaints of copyright/trademark infringement and will delete any materials that infringe upon the intellectual property rights of third parties.
For a more thorough list of prohibited content/activity, please refer to the MySpace Terms of Service located at the bottom of MySpace.com.
If we delete your account, it cannot be reinstated.
MySpace.com reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject, refuse to post or remove any posting (including private messages) by you, or to restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the MySpace Services at any time, for any or no reason, with or without prior notice, and without liability.
Even though federal government works can not be protected by copyright (§105), another part of the Copyright Act-- the §512 safe harbor-- gives an internet host a compelling justification to take down any potentially infringing material.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other options to host and/or stream media. Today, MySpace is simply one of a plethora of free choices and we use it knowing its limitations and agreeing to its terms.
But in the brave new world of a discriminatory internet, it could be possible for internet providers to make it difficult or expensive for individuals to publish media. Allowing network owners to discriminate against certain speakers or distributors of speech could make it more difficult for individual creators to disseminate expressions of ideas. No, the internet is not a truck, but the goal of the anti-neutrality proponents is to turn the internet into something like the cable TV system.
Thanks to Boing Boing, David Isenberg, Public Knowledge, and 27B Stroke 6, among others for linking.
For the latest actually useful discussion of network neutrality and discrimination policy, here are two recent pieces. From Ed Felten, Nuts and Bolts of Network Neutrality: "The Internet consists of a set of end-user computers connected by infrastructure that carries data between those computers. This infrastructure is basically a set of routers (think: metal boxes with electronics inside) connected by links (think: long wires). Packets of data get passed from one router to another, via links. A packet is forwarded from router to router, until it arrives at its destination."
In the National Journal, Drew Clark writes: The Tangled Net Of 'Net Neutrality': "Net neutrality is about the rules of the road for the information superhighway -- and whether, some day, traveling in the fast lane will require paying a toll."
A little further down the slope, the question is whether the internet will continue to be a medium fostering speech and creativity by individuals or will Congress allow large corporations to turn it into a one-way distribution network for the benefit of those few companies.
Update (6:06 pm)
Of all the days to be offline more than usual…
Public Knowledge picked up this story: Ted Stevens Parody Song Pulled From Fox-Owned Web Site "The mystery of what happened to the 'Ted Stevens Internet Fan Club' song that had been posted to MySpace.com, but disappeared after three days, has been solved."
That led to Wired News coverage: MySpace Kills Internet Tube Song.
And finally, via Washington Post media reporter Frank Ahrens, MySpace spokesman Jeff Berman says that the song was "incorrectly deleted" and that the song is back up, which it, in fact, is. (Apologies to the English language for that last sentence.)
What's the lesson here? Well, if you want customer service, have a reporter from a major national media outlet contact the company. There may be some anecdotal lesson about copyright and contract law in here somewhere, too…