Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Google + Blogger = censorship

Censorship. What a dirty word and what a surprise.

Octavian Coifan, a leading blogger in the area of perfume and fragrance, was told today by Blogger.com that it removed from 1000 Fragrances a posting found offensive by the House of Guerlain.

Guerlain, one of the oldest surviving fragrance houses in the world, is currently owned by LVMH (stands for Louis Vuitton, Mo√ęt Hennessy), a holder of luxury brands. LVMH's lawyers apparently made a complaint to Google and Blogger.

I and many of Octavian's other fans read the offending piece a few days ago. No matter how I try to view it with marketing eyes, I cannot see it as offensive. Octavian was comparing a new Guerlain fragrance to one manufactured by another company. He compared the scent itself as well as the packaging and the advertising, and showed the two bottles and two advertisements.

It doesn't matter, in one sense, which was first; the market will choose the survivor. If the other company (named in Octavian's piece, but I forget it) believes the Guerlain product infringes on its own, it has every legal right to take Guerlain to court. Taking out a blog and blogger doesn't affect the first company's rights at all, and that company certainly has both grounds for a suit and the money to pursue it.

Fragrance blogs are what you might expect of enthusiasts about anything. The blogmeister is very knowledgeable, and many followers, equally so. Their blogs discuss the histories of fragrances, stories of ingredients and inventors and copies and names and top notes and formulations and trends, and and and. Blogger and followers blog and follow because they live for the topic! It would be the same for wine or beer lovers, model train enthusiasts, or camera-crazed photographers, Kindle users, BlackBerry users.

Like many, many perfumistas, Octavian loves the older Guerlain fragrances. Like many perfumistas, he dislikes what has happened to them as LVMH has substituted cheaper ingredients. Many bloggers discuss this. Guerlain is not the only offender, and greed is not the only cause -- the European Community is also forcing substitutions because of contact allergies among consumers. Many bloggers discuss that too. So why is LVMH singling out Octavian?

And more pressingly for the thousands of us who have blogs on Blogger.com -- why did Google and Blogger buckle under to LVMH? Followers of newspaper blogs know that newspaper business offices are excruciatingly vulnerable to pressure from advertisers. Given the difference in financial stability (etc.) between Google and LVMH, I'd have thought all the power was on Google's side, and ours.

Mike Ullman -- formerly of Canfield, Ohio -- was Directeur General, Group Managing Director, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (luxury goods manufacturer and retailer) from 1999 to 2002; President of LVMH Selective Retail Group from 1998 to 1999. I knew him when: he was in eighth grade and I in tenth, working backstage at the Youngstown Civic Children's Theater.

1 comment:

Debra Weaver said...

fascinating. I also enjoyed the links to various bloggers blogging about frangrance, a subject that has always interested me. Thanks.