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The Curious Takedown Notices of ‘Tongues of Glass’ Poet Shaun Shane

The Curious Takedown Notices of ‘Tongues of Glass’ Poet Shaun Shane

The poet going by the name Shaun Shane has come to the forefront again, half a decade after his one-line poem triggered a takedown controversy. In a series of DMCA notices sent to Google, the poet posits that people are using black hat SEO to get to him. Targeted sites include BoingBoing and Techdirt, but also entirely unrelated ones, including the homepage of the company 'Shaun Shane Bricklaying.'

Over the years we have published numerous articles on dubious or inaccurate takedown notices, both from large media conglomerates and independent copyright holders.

One of the most curious cases is without doubt that of Shaun Shane and his poem ‘Tongues Made of Glass.’

Five years ago the case first made headlines when On Press Inc. started hounding people on social media because they dared to recite the single line poem, which consists of just eighteen words.

At the time, Techdirt reported on the issue, which was quickly picked up by others including BoingBoing, professor Michael Geist, and lawyer Ken White at Popehat. Needless to say, the number of poem recitals only increased.

On Press Inc. wasn’t happy with the coverage. Responding to the media attention, the company asked Google to remove links to the poem from its search engine.

This effort backfired in an even bigger way. Not only did it lead to more articles, Google also rejected most of the requests. Even worse, the poem was also posted in full in the Lumen database, where copies of Google’s DMCA notices are published.

Fast forward five years and the Tongues Made of Glass poem is back on the radar. This time it appears to be author ‘Shaun Shane’ himself who’s sending takedown notices to Google.

As before, the DMCA notices are mostly targeting articles that reference the previous debacles, including our own, but the accusations now go far beyond that.

According to Shaun Shane, people are using black hat SEO bots to fool Google’s search algorithm and make these articles rank high for his name.

“Someone is using Bots for the reported Url to artificially raise its ranking in Google search results for the search terms ‘Shaun Shane’ beyond what Googles search algorithm would natural assign it and are engaging in Black Hat Seo [sic],” he writes in the takedown notices.

We’re not sure what these alleged black hat tactics have to do with a copyright claim. What we do know, however, is that the repeated coverage of the poem’s dubious takedowns may have something to do with the high ranking.

It doesn’t end at these accusations though.

Looking more closely at the reported URLs we see some usual suspects, including BoingBoing, TorrentFreak, Techdirt and Popehat links. However, there are also several innocent bystanders being dragged into the drama.

The poet also targets the website of the company “Shaun Shane Bricklaying,” the Linkedin profile of sales manager Shaun Shane, a piece on Legend Solar founders Shaun Alldredge and Shane Perkins, and the TripAdvisor profile of Shaun & Shane Tour Operators.

Needless to say, none of these links are even remotely infringing, and we seriously doubt that they are using Black Hat SEO. They just happen to use the keywords “Shaun” and “Shane”.

Google, luckily, denied all of the takedown requests that we referenced here. We did see one URL that was removed, which used an image with the poem, without any context.

This means that the end result for Shaun Shane is not very uplifting. Most of the content he reported remains online and with new news reports being published (including this one), they will only end up higher in the search results next time.

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