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Takedown Breakdown

Posted Mar 28 2013 11:28pm
My previous post about a page takedown due to a supposed DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) violation attracted a comment:
I am going through the appeal process regagrding D360 threats myself. My hosting provider did lock down my entire site and I am working to get it back up. D360 contacted me and I responded immediately and removed the state map images for the U.S. that one of my researchers found through Google Images, and in our rush to complete a project last Fall 2012, it went without proper review as to the origins of those maps. An honest error on our part, admittedly, but these asshats are in this to suit people and are not interested in simple resolutions. I have had my site at godsownparty(dot)com for over 5 years without ever experiencing this type of aggressive attack over an unintentional error. When my site returns...guess who I am writing about?
And this comment attracted another comment (which was posted three times as the author, whom I would have thought was quite web-facile, had trouble understanding Blogger.com's controls)
This Anonymous person's name is Leah and she's pretty upset at her website begin down. Destination360 filed a DMCA complaint on her website because they took 3 maps on 3 separate articles. Example: http://www.destination360.com/maps/arizona-map.gif Its pretty clear there's a copyright and who owns it right? Her webhost was pretty heavy handed in their response but we have no control over that. She's now posting nasty anonymous comments on our Google+ acct. Why not just take responsbility for your actions and move on? Because its the internet and people can be anonymous.
To which I answered, in comment form:
Dear Local Trips/Destination360: Thank you so much for sending the same comment three times. I guess it never hurts to be certain you were heard, but you do apparently believe in taking responsibilities for your actions... When you file a DMCA complaint, as you seem to enjoy doing quite often, it causes undue havoc and pain upon people who were really not trying to harm you. In my case, I credited your photo to your site. Had you left it alone, you might have generated additional business, as the Hunter post is one of my most popular. The credited link could have drawn in more people to your site. And even if you don't want additional traffic to your illustrious site, you COULD have simply contacted me and asked nicely for me to take down the image. I would have done so, but had I refused, it would THEN be the proper course of action to file the DMCA. With your petty behavior, you now inspire people like me and Leah to let others know, and not only do you not gain any traffic, you lose potential customers and viewers. Is it worth that? And by the way, as noted in the post, I've found duplicates of your photos and your copy elsewhere...who stole what from whom?
To which Dan Taylor, the principle (and I have to admit superb photographer of Destination360.com) answered
Dalai, Obviously that wasn't the intention to post multiple times, feel free to delete extras if you care. The commenting confirmation on this has something to be desired. I cannot comment on your specific instance regarding DMCA but we're fine with someone filing a DMCA on Destination360 we hire all our writers and content is run through copyscape so our work is vetted. Thanks for allowing us rebuttal on this issue.
And I responded:
Here's a rebuttal for you...why are you at Destination 360 being such BUTTS about this? WHY couldn't you simply contact me, which you can see is quite easy to do, and ask NICELY for me to remove the image in question? WHY did you feel it necessary to go straight to a DMCA filing? DO you possibly grasp that this just works against you in the end? Probably not.
Dan has the last word to this point
Sorry but in order to process DMCA's you must follow certain procedures. Most people taking images are doing it for profit "traffic theft". On occasion innocent users get caught in this. Its impossible to determine who this is without significant work on our part. So the only way we can effectively and legally process these is to send to the website user email adddress and webhost. In the case of the Leah incident she had her whois hidden as private so we had no way. We sent 5 emails over the course of one month. I doubt you will understand our position but if you were in our shoes you might. In all fairness you say easily contact you. In looking at http://doctordalai.blogspot.com/ I cannot find anyway to contact you on this blog. I must go back to my dayjob. Cheers! 
Well, Dan, old friend, you really should consider putting in that "significant work", as you might be taking away the livelihood of others. My blog exists mostly for my own amusement, but other people actually depend on theirs for a living. I notice Destination360.com produces something under $200/day in advertising, which may or may not be enough to keep you in Nikon D800's without your day job. "Leah's" site isn't back up even yet, so I don't know if this is something that generates food-money for her or not. Would you be at all sorry for your actions if it did? Was her goal actually traffic theft? Mine certainly wasn't. If by that term you mean using the photos in question to divert web traffic from your site to mine, well, I guess that practice does exist.  However, I seriously doubt it represents the majority of people who use your photos, ESPECIALLY those who do so and give you credit for them as I did. With the crediting link, YOU, Dan, and your illustrious site, get FREE advertising. The "Doctor Hunter" post was one of my most popular. I used the photo of the hunter to represent my friend the hunting doctor, and it had nothing to do with anything on D360.com. Nothing but upside for D360 to just leave it and me alone.

There's a punch line here...the photo in question wasn't taken by Dan or anyone else associated with Destination360.com...it was a STOCK PHOTO from iStockphoto.com.  So I bought the rights to use it myself, and it's back up on the Doctor Hunter post:
Order Summary
File: #1162020
XSmall
Standard License (Included) Order number: 19731992


Please save this invoice/receipt as a record of your purchase.



iStockphoto LP, Suite 200 - 1240 20th Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 1M8 Canada


Now, isn't that interesting? How did they know my use of the photo was not kosher? Well, I made it easy for them by posting the credit right there by the picture. It's also possible to check the source of a download by examining the EXIF data of the photo. In this case, the version I borrowed from D360 mentions their website, and that from iStock contains their info, and that is perhaps another way to search. (I will of course assume that D360 licensed this picture either from iStock or in another legal manner.)

It's pretty clear that my friend Dan is trolling the 'net looking for photos (and maybe text) that match the content of Destination360.com, without bothering to find out the origin of the material. To be fair, I had not properly obtained permission to use the photo in question (which I have now), and in MY case, D360 truly did have the right to file the DMCA action. BUT, this isn't always the case with Dan and company, as he himself admits above, and some others like "Leah" will suffer. Others have had similar amusing experiences as this blog post and attached comments will illustrate
My frustration at GoDaddy has gone to a whole other level this week.

I used to be a loyal GoDaddy customer from day 1. I hosted over a hundred websites, including 3 dedicated and 2 virtual servers, had all my domains through there all purchases through my reseller account which was also doing very well. Needless to say I feel I am a pretty reliable source to be giving a GoDaddy review.

Over the last 2 years, my loyalty to GoDaddy has been steadily dwindling. It wasn’t the customer support that was steadily getting worse, or the constant mistakes in billing….it wasn’t even the malware attacks that prayed on server vulnerabilities, infecting over 87 of my wordpress sites that they stubbornly insisted to the bitter end, wasn’t their fault.

But the nail in the coffin for me, was finding out that GoDaddy does not enforce their own terms to protect our servers, and that anyone with an email has the power to take your server down.

Scary right? Its the truth and here is what happened.

Recently one of our Dedicated Servers was suspended because of a Copyright Complaint. No notice, no warning…nothing. One minute its up and the next its down.

There is no way to contact the Copyright department by phone. You can only contact them through email. And they are the only one with the power to restore your server. You are supposed to receive an email notifying you as to why the server was taken down but since most of us with dedicated servers also host our emails on the server, that did not happen in our case.
So we had to send them a request by email to find out why our server was suspended and they took their sweet time responding. Nearly 5 hours later we got an email with a complaint that was attached from www.Destination360.com who claimed an image we had on the site was theirs and they swore under penalty of perjury to that fact. They provided a link of the image on their own site, and then one that showed it on our site. That was it.

Our first issue was to get the server restored. And in order for us to do that we had to follow this list of things which included swearing under penalty of perjury that we would remove the image immediately. I found that interesting considering you can’t remove the image when the server is down. We responded with the things they asked us for, and told them we would remove the image as soon as they put the server back up. But we kept getting rejected with an auto response referring us to the terms and instructions. I just continued to submit the same response and the 4th time it was accepted. FINALLY, After 12 hours of being down and waiting for responses, we were told we would be restored. But it didn’t happen and when we called to see why, we found out they went home and we would have to wait until the next morning!

Eventually they got the server back up. Total down time, 20 hours, just long enough to lose traffic from a breaking news story linked to on drudge, affect the sites ranking and lose advertisers.

I decided to now look into this situation that caused all this which was the copyright violation claim. Imagine my surprise when I searched the image in question on tineye.com, to find out that the image was in fact owned by IStock photo. Further research showed we had a license for it.

So why was Destination360.com filing complaints about images they don’t own? And how was this claim validated by GoDaddy? Can anyone claim copyright infringement and just take down a website? Does GoDaddy just yank your website, no questions asked?

It seems so, how else could this have happened when clearly the accuser did not own the image and could not have provided proof of such.

SO the questions is, does GoDaddy just automatically suspend service when they get complaints and then sort out the details later? Because that seemed to me like a very dangerous power to give to someone who wants to take a site down. There had to be something that prevents false claims or malicious intent.

I called an talked to a manager named Chris to ask this very question. Chris assured me that although they wont make the decision who is right and who is wrong when the complaints are received, they do make them follow a strict complaint submission protocol and will verify the complaint before they suspend. They admit they take action swiftly but they do not just suspend all sites that get complaints arbitrarily.

I checked out the rules for submitting a copyright complaint . To my surprise, the complaint that Desintation360 provided did not provide the necessary information to have a valid complaint according to the terms of GoDaddy.

So how was that claim aloud to pass as valid? Can anyone just lie and say we stole their image and take our server down?

But even more surprising is that they do NOT ask you to provide proof of some kind of documentation of the actual copyright when making a complain. Which means if someone has malicious intent, all they have to do is swear that they believe you have violated their copyright (even if no such copyright exists) by using something of theirs on your website, and GoDaddy will suspend the website. No questions asked.

I contacted ISTOCK who immediately called me, concerned and provided us with proof for GoDaddy, that we were within our rights to use that image. My goal was to not only show GoDaddy the claim was not valid but to show we had the right to put the image back up.

I immediately emailed that to GoDaddy the license and letter from ISTOCK, along with several requests for a manager to review this situation. I was very concerned that our server was not safe, and wanted to know why the complaint was allowed to be escalated to server suspension and how they thwart malicious intent, if they are not asking for any kind of proof. Chris the manager said they do look into these things first. But clearly that didn’t happen here. So what happened?

I expected someone to email me back. But we got nothing but automated responses containing instructions on how to get our server back up which proved they were clearly not even reading our emails considering the site had already been back up for 2 days.

When I finally did get a response from someone named Michelle, she asked me why the image was still up when we promised to remove it. That concerned me again considering it wasn’t up and hadn’t been for 2 days. But even worse was that we had provided our license for the image and should have been able to put it back up anyway. SO no one was even looking at our emails and documentation. GoDaddy didn’t care that we were wrongly accused.

Hey wait, aren’t they supposed to be on our side?

After providing her with a link to the images 404, and again asking how we can document with GoDaddy that this claim was not valid and did not comply to their terms and asking to be allowed to republish the image, she responded asking us file a counter claim.

So we did. She responded to tell us that the server would need to be suspended until the court date.

Wait….court date? What court date? I thought we were just providing you with information about why the complaint was not valid so we could put the image back up and not get in trouble for it. Apparently there is NO way to do this. There is no way to disprove a bogus claims with GoDaddy and NO way to hold someone accountable for false claims under penalty of perjury without taking them to court. And the best part is that godaddy supports you through this process by taking your server down until it is resolved, something that is not mentioned in their terms.

In the end, we never got a call or email responding to our concerns, nothing assuring us it wouldn’t happen again, nothing explaining the situation, nothing acknowledging the proof we had the rights to the image, nothing assuring us that they do look into claims before yanking servers and sites. Just Nothing.

Oh and I emailed Destination360 several times to tell them about their mistake and how it affected our website. Guess what I got from them? Yep. Nothing.

So what does all this mean to you? It means your GoDaddy server and website is vulnerable. And until GoDaddy decides to listen to its customers and better protect them, this is not going to change anytime soon.

I certainly don’t intend in staying around to find out.

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June 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm


I, too have had the same issue with this malicious company Godaddy. On the 25th of this month, June 2012 they took my site down after they received the same complaint of a copyright violation from the same company destination360.com They simply emailed Godaddy and said we stole one of the photos from their site. We did not steal anything, as the photo was licensed by Istock. Godaddy never contacted us and just immediately took our site and hosting down. After they did they emailed us. And by violating our contract with them, Godaddy, they ruined our online business.

I will look into filing a lawsuit against Godaddy and against destination360.com for libelous and false claims.

Godaddy must actually believe they are too big to fail…they are wrong. Once a company reaches success, like GM and thousands of other companies, they treat their customers like dumb ignorant cash-cows.

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June 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm


Email me and I can give you the name of the manager at ISTOCK who has been dealing with Destination360 already about this issue. ISTOCK is NOT happy as it harasses their customers and I am sure they will be concerned to hear this is still occurring. I will be sure to email my contact there and let her know.

You have a valid reason to pursue legal action as in order for them to take down your server, they have to swear under penalty of perjury and since they have done it more than once and have already been warned about it, it is not longer something they can claim is an oversight. I am happy to provide you with details of our situation for your court case if it helps.

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May 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

http://www.destination360.com had our site removed for using an image of a windmill we had a legal license from istock to use! It was a huge problem for us and took us nearly a week to resolve. Worse yet, we also could not put the image back up as godaddy did not seem to care that we had a license, and said they would take our site down if we put the image up. So we paid for a license we can’t use. Your site is about godaddy, but it seems to me the real problem is istock! In other words, if you buy an istock license you are at risk from a company who has decided they own images that they don’t and will have your site taken down? Your article is a year old, it is unacceptable that istock has not fixed this issue. They need to take action against Destination360. Suspend their account!

I don’t understand what Destinantion360 has to gain by doing this? Do they really think that they own these images?
Dan, buddy, pal, mate, friend...THIS is what your blind shotgunning accomplishes. For every real case of "traffic theft" you eliminate, you cause a boatload of grief for several more innocents.

Not that you really care, but IF you and Destination360.com want to be a good citizens of the web, Cease and Desist from your belligerent practices outlined above. Yes, it is your right to pursue those who actually ARE trying to steal your customers (although I'll bet you don't get much revenue from the vast majority of those viewers who might be so enticed anyway), but you should have the common courtesy to find out BEFORE you go, ummm, gunning for them. You are doing nothing more than turning away potential visitors to your site. You are firing a shotgun into a crowd which you think might contain someone who ripped you off. This is not the way to win friends and influence people. Not at all. In fact, Dan, you posted something on your own forum about "besstpicturesof.com" which I won't reproduce as you might get upset. The gist of the post was that "image scrapers" are trolling for your content and using it as an easy source of revenue. Really, Dan? Are the dozens of little piss-ant blogs out there that you have prosecuted (under pain of perjury) REALLY using your content for revenue? Certainly, a site that DOES do this deserves the full weight of your wrath, the rest of them, the rest of us, probably not.

Since you are quite concerned with Internet piracy, as we all should be, by the way, you might be glad one of your images was lifted to be used in a talk about...Internet piracy .  The image of the Mexican Caribbean is yours. Have fun prosecuting the Hong Kong police.

There are a lot of sites dedicated to travel beyond D360.com. I'll be visiting those, and not yours. I urge my readers to do the same. THIS is what your behavior brings you, Dan. Yes, mine is a small blog with few readers. But they have friends, and the friends have friends...

Next time, send the perpetrator an email, a common courtesy which you didn't afford me. Most of us out there will do the right thing. Unlike those who indiscriminately file DMCA notices.
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