Could Google Delete Copyrighted MP3s From Gmail? ‘Only In Extreme Cases’ It Says

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Some rather inflammatory news has been making its way around the web today: a user posting on the Pirateweb message board has accused Google of removing copyrighted MP3 music files from a Gmail account — possibly using the scanning services that Google employs to block illegal content on YouTube, possibly using something else.

Shocking if true, so we went to Google to get a response. And the short answer is: no. Or not, at least, just like that.

Perhaps it’s the confluence of other things — Google’s upcoming privacy policy changes, and murmurs that Google could remove illegal content that people store in their Google Music digital lockers — that make this story sound plausible.

But a spokesperson from Google has come back to us with a denial that it is doing anything of this kind.

However — and this might be a worry for some who store all kinds of things in Gmail — he also left open the possibility that Google could do something like this “in extreme cases,” for example, in response to court orders.

“We do not go into or interfere with user’s Gmail accounts, except in extreme cases, such as in response to court orders. Emails, data and files contained in Gmail are users’ private information.”

Before you read too much into that, he also pointed out that the scanning service used with YouTube is only used there:

“Our Content ID service, which enables us to scan uploaded YouTube videos for copyrighted material, is only ever used on YouTube. It does not work on our other products, including Gmail.”

The original note raising the issue was published last week. The user, one Honey Escreveu, said that a folder she kept in her Gmail account, which contained MP3 files for copyrighted music, suddenly got deleted. It’s not clear whether those were legally-owned files or not. The only two MP3s that remained in her Gmail, apparently, were for “unsigned indy artists” who are not on YouTube.

So, the jury is still out on whether Honey got the wrong end of the stick, is a hoax, or really has seen the phantom disappearance of her files. If the latter, we are still none the wiser about where the music has gone.

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