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Is Tumblr Cracking Down Harder on Copyright Infringement By Users?

Tumblr appears to be taking a harder stance against content infringement by its users.

Tumblr appears to be taking a harder stance against content infringement by its users. The popular blogging platform has reportedly been enforcing a “three strikes” policy and terminating some users’ accounts. In another move, Tumblr is blocking uploads of copyrighted songs and providing links to legal alternatives.

As detailed in an article at TorrentFreak, Tumblr users have been experiencing more aggressive responses to copyright infringement on the site. One user’s site was terminated for a second and third strike related to a notice from the IFPI. The article says music industry trade group IFPI filed some of the infringement complaints. The IFPI did not respond to a request for comment.

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The news is notable because of the service’s main demographic. Tumblr, acquired by Yahoo in May 2013 for $1.1 billion, has attracted a large number of mostly young Internet users with easy-to-use tools for sharing audio and video. According to eMarketer, 23.3 percent of Tumblr users are age 18 to 25 and 27 percent are age 25 to 34. The 8-year-old company has just 301 employees and hosts 224 million blogs that have 92 million daily posts.

The company’s policy has not changed, a Tumblr spokesperson tells Billboard. The company’s three strikes policy allows a user 3 uncontested strikes — a violation of the copyright policies without a successful appeal, called a counter-notification — in an 18-month period. The Terms of Service explains that Tumblr may terminate or suspend accounts “that have been flagged for repeat copyright infringement.”

But the article suggests Tumblr has recently increased its efforts to impose these penalties on infringers. Whether or not the crackdown stems solely from outside parties’ takedown notices is not yet known.

Music industry efforts may have played a role in these events. An industry source says sites like Tumblr had become a bigger priority for the RIAA and IFPI as it became a more popular place to post music.

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Rights owners are also indirectly targeting Tumblr. A look at takedown notices at ChillingEffects.org, a clearinghouse for DMCA takedown notices, shows numerous takedown requests this month alone from rights owners, or their agents, to Google related to Tumblr pages. Google typically removes from its search results the URLs that contain the infringing content.

Tumblr has also implemented an audio fingerprinting technology, or something of equal function, to block copyright protected songs from being uploaded. As Billboard discovered, a user that attempts to upload an infringing file will receive a message that reads, “Hey, that file is copyrighted. Don’t upload that stuff. You can use one of these sources instead.” Below the message is a list of 7 links to the song at Spotify, SoundCloud or YouTube. (Tumblr also provides links to legal music services, through a search function, to users that choose to upload audio.)

The RIAA welcomed Tumbr’s “initial steps” to discourage piracy and encourage usage of “legitimate sites like Spotify and Vevo.” “That’s good news for users, artists and labels, and digital services,” said an RIAA spokesperson in a statement given to Billboard.

Consumer surveys and analysis of peer-to-peer traffic show music piracy is waning in many countries. Indeed, illegal downloading seems anachronistic when there are numerous, legal streaming services that provide vast catalogs and excellent user experiences. Yet there are an uncountable number of illegal sites that provide music downloads and streams. Some are file hosting services, others are search engines that crawl the Internet for MP3 links.

The RIAA could attest that infringement is a persistent problem. Record labels are among the top organizations in terms of requests to remove content from Google Search, according to the search giant’s Transparency Report. Over the last 12 months, the BPI has requested the removal of 60.7 million links — tops among all copyright owners — from 734 specific domains. The RIAA is third with 18 million URLs from 801 specific domains.