Google gives the DMCA Okie Doke on the Utoopi App

WASHINGTON, DC  –  Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) spoke today about a destructive illegal escort service app. Google listened, and then did the right thing, removing the app from the Google-hosted Android marketplace.

Earlier today, Congresswoman Maloney was notified about an app marketed under the name “Utoopi”, designed to be used for locating escorts using mobile phones and tablets that operate the Android operating system. The app offered to connect users with escorts and, according to its own description, “all the sex you want” in four cities, including New York.

Immediately after learning of this disturbing app, Representative Maloney fired off a letter to Google (attached) saying in part:

“…It is appalling beyond belief that someone would try to market an ‘app’ like Utoopi, which is about illegal escort services plain and simple. I urge you to ban the promotion of sex services and immediately remove Utoopi from the Android ‘app’ marketplace hosted by Google.”

Google listened, and today took down the app from the “play.google.com” marketplace.

Background

In April, Reps. Maloney and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) requested – and received – clarification of Google’s policies relating to escort service ads on the Google service. In response, Google reaffirmed its policies against advertising such services. Find out more at http://maloney.house.gov/press-release/reps-blackburn-and-maloney-join-efforts-address-online-promotion-human-trafficking.

We have to be happy that Breeanne Howe (Redstate) and Jane Hamsher (Firedoglake) focused attention on yet another way that Google profits from human misery–specifically the Utoopi app.  Rep. Maloney took quick and decisive action, and sent the letter described above to Larry Page describing her expectations in no uncertain terms.  After some wriggling, Google took down the offending app.

This is a good thing, certainly, and we’re glad that it happened.  But those of us who have dealt with Google before recognize what just happened.

Google (a) only reacted when they pretty much had no other choice, and (b) did the least they had to do to stop the sunlight.  This is what we call the “DMCA Okie Doke.”  Meaning, they preserved the essential element of Internet Freedom–getting away with it.  They didn’t fix the real problem which is an unmonitored Android Market.  (If you use your imagination just a tiny bit, you can find plenty of other questionable apps in the Android Market.)

Case in point?  Grooveshark.

On April 6, 2012 the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held a hearing about piracy.  Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker raised his right hand and told the American people that “We must work together to target the ‘worst-of-the-worst’ rogue foreign websites without unintentionally impeding legitimate interests of those innovating and using online services to drive economic growth and global freedom.”   Evidence of Google’s intentions?

Google removed the Grooveshark app from the Android Market.  (Grooveshark is the shadowy company that is generally regarded as a “worst of the worst” distributor of pirate content.)  When did Google remove the Grooveshark app?

April 6, 2012.  That is–the morning of the day that Walker was testifying to the American people.  Did he tell the Congress that Google had taken down the app only on the day of the hearing?  Not really.  If you weren’t following along in the news, you wouldn’t know of the suspicious timing and you also wouldn’t know that Apple had removed Grooveshark from the Apple App Store a year before.  But Kent Walker could raise his right hand to God to tell what passes for the truth at Google.  (For another example, see Eric Schmidt’s testimony to the Senate regarding the Google nonindictment agreement on violations of the Controlled Substances Act.   See also “LYING: Cadets violate the Honor Code by lying if they deliberately deceive another by stating an untruth or by any direct form of communication to include the telling of a partial truth and the vague or ambiguous use of information or language with the intent to deceive or mislead.”)

So just like Google’s reaction when Congresswoman Maloney called them out on the Utoopi app, Google removed Grooveshark when they were backed into a corner–and a pattern is developing.  Only when Google was backed into a corner did Google do something that they could pawn off as the right thing.

But not to be stopped, Techcrunch tells us that “[On April 18–less than two weeks after Walker’s testimony], Grooveshark makes its triumphant return to Android, albeit not through the official App Market. Playing on Android’s ability to install third-party applications through the browser, Grooveshark has taken on the responsibility of distributing the application themselves.”

Presumably, Utoopi can do the same.

The Grooveshark take down is relevant because Google put the app right back up in August when they thought no one was looking according to PC World:

The music streaming application Grooveshark is available again for Android devices…after [Kent Walker told the Congress] it was removed by Google from its application market.

Grooveshark, which is run by Escape Media Group based in Gainsville, Florida, has had a rocky time with mobile application stores. Apple pulled Grooveshark from its App Store in August 2010 just days after it launched due to copyright-related complaints.

The company issued a statement saying that it had worked with Google in order to be reinstated.

Google did remove the Grooveshark app again around the end of August after enough people complained.  It should not be lost on anyone that this occurred just as Google is in a process of renegotiating many of its music deals, especially for YouTube.  So while Google can threaten to complain to Congress about certain deals if they don’t get their way, that only works with certain people.  Grooveshark is an equal opportunity thief.

But Google’s reaction to Congresswoman Maloney is reminiscent of what Google does with DMCA takedown notices–they surely must know the work is being infringed, but they will only move if it suits them or if they are ordered to do so and will allow it to go right back up once the danger has passed.  What we call the Google Okie Doke.  And Congresswoman Maloney should not be at all surprised if they run the Okie Doke on her with Utoopi.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

Oh sorry–no, it’s nothing personal, it’s just Internet Freedom.  And this is what monopoly looks like.

But we have to be glad that dumping the Utoopi app may save a mom from having to pick up their child after school–at the morgue.

2 thoughts on “Google gives the DMCA Okie Doke on the Utoopi App

  1. Good article but I have one question to the author. How do you feel about the ability to install third party applications on Android outside Google Play (formerly Android market)? Should that be allowed?

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  2. You know I’m all about Internet Freedom, but if for no other reason that Google’s own credibility, it would be a good idea not to tell the Congress that you have taken the illegal app down from Android Market as though you had actually done something when you knew all the time that the app could come into the Android environment through a back door. So if they don’t want to block the installation functionality, then they should tell the Congress all of the facts or else someone might get the impression they are lying to Congress.

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