Elitehost.net – What a Clueless Hosting Company

By Daniel Scocco

Last weekend I was doing some copyright infringement control on Daily Blog Tips, basically looking for people ripping off my content, and contacting the owners of those sites or, when their contact detail was not available, contacting the hosting company directly.

At one point I found a guy that had copied my 43 Web Design Mistakes You Should Avoid integrally. He did mention that the article was coming from Daily Blog Tips, but as you probably know, merely crediting the author does not give one the right to republish the material. There was no contact details on the site, so I identified the hosting company and contacted them.

The hosting was called EliteHost.net. Upon hitting the “Contact” link I saw a 404 error page. Hmm, not a good start. I tried to find some other contact information, but the only one available was the customer support, so I went for that anyway and sent a DMCA notification.

Some time later I got a reply, and it said something along these lines (not the actual text, because emails are also subject to copyright laws, so I will express it with my own words):

“Unfortunately we are just the hosting company, and we don’t own the website or the content you are claiming to be infringing on your copyrights. You should therefore contact the owner of the content and try to settle the matter with him. Going after the hosting company is useless.”

When I read that I realized these guys had no clue about what they were talking about. The DMCA clearly specifies on Section 202(c) that a service provider will also become liable unless upon notification of claimed infringement as described in paragraph (3), responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity. You can download the complete DMCA text here (pdf link).

Now how could a hosting company be unaware of this I am not sure. Anyway, I decided to try again, so I replied to their email explaining that they could become liable as well even for just hosting the copyright infringement.

Some time later I got another reply, even more shocking than the first one. It said something like:

“We don’t care about whatever copyright act you are talking about, we will need to get our attorneys to review this. You don’t have anything better to do than going around bullying people? Are you a recent graduated lawyer or something that likes to harass people? Things can get worse here if you insist.”

At this point I started to get pissed off. I publish content on this blog for a living (and for passion, but still). When someone rips off my content, he is hurting my business. Now, if apart from a content thief I also need to face a dumb hosting company that does not treat copyright infringement issues seriously, then things start to go down hill.

But I don’t like threatening people or anything, so I just sent another polite email confirming that I was claiming a copyright infringement, and that I was waiting a reply from them.

Then I got another pearl of wisdom from Elitehost.net on the following day:

“We looked into the issue, and we discovered that the website contains a link to your original material, so we don’t see a copyright infringement here. We talked with the owner of the website and we arrived to this conclusion. Additionally, we talked to our attorneys and they said you should stop emailing us and wasting our time.”

At this point my only thought was: You’ve got be kidding me?

Not only these guys had no clue about what the DMCA is, but they also thought that using a link to credit the original material was enough to avoid any copyright infringement issues. There was one guy ripping off my content, and the hosting company thought the kid was playing by the rules….

After some time the owner of the website removed the content anyway, because I think he realized what was going on. But if it was for the hosting company alone I am not sure what distance we would need to have gone before solving the problem.

Apart from the rant, there are some points to take home here. If you are a web publisher, do know your rights, and don’t get frightened by the first negative response you might get. Remember also that hosting companies might become liable if they don’t remove or block access to the violating content after you notify them about it.

Ah, and keep an eye for the brilliant folks over at EliteHost.net as well. Way to go as a hosting company…

Thanks to friends Steve Imparl and Jonathan Bailey who helped me out.

Update: Today the CEO of this company contacted me via IM and we chatted a bit. Basically it looks like this was a single employee incident, and he is already proceeding to fire the clueless guy. So perhaps the whole company is not to be blamed.



Share

74 Responses to “Elitehost.net – What a Clueless Hosting Company”

  • sonia

    Grrr. This exact same thing Just happened to me. I have a new found appreciation for your problem. I wake up this morning, and an entire post of mine is cut-ed and past-ed to this dude’s blog and linked. All he/she does in the end is say, “Thoughts?”. How annoying.

  • Dean Saliba

    I have worked in the wrestling news section of the internet (taking news items from the big sites and posting it to the hundreds of little sites around the internet) and we alays place a credit note at the top saying here we got it from.

    I had no idea that this was not right. 🙁

  • Doug

    Ben got it right. Even if the law is on your side, you still have to enforce your rights, and that can get costly. The question becomes is it worth it?

    I would always recommend a cease and desist from a lawyer which puts them on notice. Another mentioned filing a complaint. The only problem with that is what jurisdiction? It depends.

    The bottom line is though that just because you tell a web host that someone stole your work, they can choose not to do anything, even at their own peril, if they choose to. That forces you to put up or shut up and file suit.

    I have a similar situation with a domain name at the moment, but the problem is the person that has the domain is in Korea…somewhere. They are certainly out of my reach from a jurisdiction standpoint.

    I can file a dispute with ICANN, but that is going to cost me $1000 and while I would like to have the domain back, it is not worth it when I use a similar, alternate domain that gets the job done.

    In your situation, I would say if someone is hosting with a reputable company you will get further, but they will still probably have procedures and that might still involve you having to prove you are the rights holder and that might involve costs on your part. Frustrating, I know.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Sonia, I have a problem when people copy 100% of the content.

    Even if you put a link to credit the source, the whole content is there, so people could just read it there right? In theory, you are removing the incentive for people to go read the original material.

    The AP story is a bit different because they are suing people that used only excerpts and summaries, which should be “fair use.”

  • sonia

    Your post reminded me of this story of the AP cracking down on bloggers using their content (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/06/the-ap-targets.html#more)

    While I never simply cut and paste from other sites onto my blog (I always link and offer a summary or a few line snippets), it’s mostly because I think it’s boring to do, not because of copyright worries.

    I had no idea that it was copyright infringement if you link it to the source. If that is the case, don’t you think this is a law that needs some serious revamping. I see this everywhere, on so many blogs. All the time.

    By the way, it’s not that I don’t think your complaint is not valid. It totally is. What do you think of the AP story? I just think it’s a law that seems to have no real enforcement (as far as I can see). Maybe I am wrong.

  • jonson roth

    Unbelievable!! Sorry you’re going through this. I highly doubt these dimwits even contacted their lawyers, else I’m not sure they would have responded the way they did. I almost ‘heard’ them saying, “we don’t have to listen to you because our mommy said so.”

    Unfortunately, some spammers set up their own hosting companies, so they often don’t give a rat’s hindquarters when you send them a C+D. It may not be the case here, though.

  • PartTimeBlogger

    Sorry to hear your content got ripped off, but with such a popular blog like yours its going to happen. I recently heard from a highly successful internet marketer, cant remember his name but this guy makes millions a year, that he now ignores any people that rip off his content, and just gets on with his work. Why because he values his time so highly, It must take you a lot of time and effort to find these thief’s and when you do, the next set of thief’s begin the cycle again so its a never ending task.

  • camila

    Daniel, thanx for the response, but i still dont understand why giving credit (because I didnt find a way to “trackback” the post) is not enough. The example of U2 is quite different of the situation we are talking about. (and there ARE cover bands which as far as a know do not affect the populrity of the bands they cover!)
    Anyway Im going to ask for permission of my translated post. (it is not published yet)

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Tara, linking to someone is completely fine. That is, when you mention you saw a good article, and create a link to that article on your blog.

    Using a quote or paragraph is fine also, cause this is protected under the copyright law as “fair use.” As long as you quote a small part of the overall article, it is fine.

    What is not fine, and that is the case I was complaining about here, is when you copy 100% of the article that you liked on your own blog. Word for word.

    Even if you put a credit link saying where you copied it from, it is still copyright infringement.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @camila, if giving credit was enough, you could create a band and go around the world performing the latest hits of U2 or Eric Clapton, and all you would need to do was to say in the end of the show:

    “Thanks for the U2 and Eric Clapton who created those beautiful songs”

    Copyright by itself means that the author of any text, composition, music, film and what not has the rights to decide who can copy it, modify, and publish it, and where and under what circumstances.

  • tara

    Question: Does this mean I need to contact all authors of material I quote from or link to? I have a small personal blog and am constantly scowering the web for interesting pictures to put on it. I always give full credit and link to the blog or site I found it on.

    At first, I’d e-mail the authors asking for permission, but after getting a number of “wtf are you asking for, I’m glad to be linked” responses, I finally decided it wasn’t necessary. And after all, I’m giving them free publicity, right? The more a blog is linked to, the higher it is ranked on google searches, no? So even a ripped-off article would still up the rankings of your blog, as long as they link back to you. Granted, I see the problem with someone ripping off a carefully written article just to beef up their blog. But still, the line seems very fine.

    I’m new to blogging so would very much appreciate feedback on this.

  • camila

    wait, wait. I live in another country, so maybe Im not informed of the copyrights is USA, but to link the source of the info isnt enough??? my god! why??? can anyone explain me? recently I found something great in a blog written in english and I want to translate it in spanish (GIVING FULL CREDIT TO THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR) so am I end up in jail because of that?????

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Cory Goodwin, if I am not wrong the DMCA outlines some details that must be included in the notification for it to have a legal validity.

    You need to include as much info as possible to prove the infringement, including URL of original and copied material, titles, and so on.

    Additionally, the sender needs to include his contact details (phone, address and what not) and a statement that he swears, under the laws of perjury, that the contained information is true.

    So as you can see a DMCA notification is not just an email sent by an angry blogger. Should the hosting take down the material and afterwards it is found that there was no copyright infringement in the first place, the person who sent the DMCA can easily be sued, and the hosting company should be able to recover any damages.

  • Cory Goodwin

    I am against copyright infringement and my following statement is in no way particular to your described case. I do have a comment regarding this statement.

    Quote from text: Remember also that hosting companies might become liable if they don’t remove or block access to the violating content after you notify them about it.

    Is there any form of due process? Surely the hosting company wouldn’t have to remove or block access to the content based on someone’s word. Until a proper investigation is conducted no one could say for sure who wrote the content first. (I understand in your case the guy gave you credit so this point would be void in your particular case)

    What does the DMCA suggest for due process?

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Tink, I developed a small software for that purpose, you can find it on CopyTrust.com (its a paid service, though I have not promoted it yet).

  • Tink *~*~*

    Daniel, thanks for sharing this experience with the rest of us. Question: you mention in the beginning of the post that you were spending some time doing “copyright infringement control”. How does one do that? Are there tools you use, or do you just set up searches based upon specific phrases in your content or… what?

    thanks –
    Tink *~*~*

  • shared webhosting solutions

    The host has to know they are liable. another example of some host who just don’t know their sector and work

  • Blogbookmark

    Content theft is a very vague issue in the online world. The technology confuses matters. For example any file is duplicated many times on many intermediary servers with just one download. In the real world such copying is illegal, but this is the method of transfer on the internet.

    Another issue came up for me on the website I run, blogbookmark.com. It is a social bookmarking site similar to Digg. We were contacted by a blogger who was annoyed that her work had been duplicated on our website. Readers can submit their own or others blogs to our site and we have – what is a common tool – a bookmarklet which can make submission of blog articles very easy with just a click from the browser button.

    We removed the ‘copied’ blog posts from our website, though were left somewhat bemused. Digg do not permit submission of one’s own work. In which case any submission to digg could be construed as a copying of someone else’s work. As most bloggers like their work to be submitted to social bookmarking sites yet clearly not to some other types of site.. at what point is reproducing content an act of promotion or and act of stealing. The line is so fine I have no idea myself.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Vishaw, there are services on the web that provide that, like CopyTrust.com.

    @Lisa, thanks for that info.

    @Anonymous coward, yeah I suspected there was something fishy with these guys.

    @Bilingual Blogger, emails are protected by the copyright laws all the same, and the sender usually has the rights.

    Usually it is difficult to claim infringement if someone publishes your, cause you would need to prove damages, but given the tone of this post I wanted to be 100% safe.

    @Ben, usually you don’t need to hire a lawyer before you have some damages on the table, and then you have some money to earn.

    @Roy, the guy removed the content already.

  • Roy Sanders

    @Daniel:

    This is fairly common amongst the smaller web hosts, my friend. What I would suggest you do is:

    Leave a comment on this guy’s blog requesting him to remove the content as it belongs to you. I’ve seen this work more often than not. If the guy is really brazen, and since his web host is not too cooperative, you can email Google letting them know of the copyright infringement and have his ad revenue cut off.

    You can go one step further, click on his direct advertisements and contact the advertisers, letting them know that they are being associated with a Thief!

    One of these or a combination should get your content off this guy’s blog.

    Cheers!
    Roy

  • Ben

    I agree that stealing another persons article is a copyright infringement, but my question is it worth the money to go after them?

    Normally, you would have to find a practicing attorney in that person’s area to file the paperwork. Then you have to pay the attorney and the filing fee and hopefully they can find the person. Otherwise, you have to pay to have it served. You could easily have tons of money tied up before even going to trial.

    Doesn’t seem like a good use of money.

    Also, I’m not sure sending a DCMA is all that helpful or or even enforceable. For example, who decides who has the copyright? What if I copied and posted this entire article but dated it for yesterday? Who copied? In this case, the original post would look like the copier.

    I know it is tough out there in cyberspace and it is even tougher trying to enforce copyright laws. Daniel, I wish you all the luck in going after the infringers and thank you for reminding us to write our own material instead of taking the easy way out.

  • Bilingual Blogger

    By the way, I don’t think there’s any “copyright infringement” in quoting a letter (or an email) one has personally received. I don’t think there was any need for you to paraphrase or reword the email communication you got from the Elitehost idiots.

  • karthik sridharan

    Thanks for sharing daniel. Its interesting and i am came to know abt these laws now only, but unknowingly i used to follow all these….

  • Anonymous coward

    A quick google search reveals that the people behind Elitehost.net are scammers and they even steal domain names. Actually that must be a kid operating from his parents’ basement.

    http://www.namepros.com/warnings-and-alerts/242301-elitehost-net-possible-appraisal-scam.html
    http://www.namepros.com/domain-name-discussion/387427-potential-ll-com-stolen.html

  • Ramiro

    No problem when people copy my material. I even like it. But I do not edit blogs for living; only for pleasure.

  • Lisa

    I own a hosting company..not a reseller, like EliteHost, but we do have an upstream provider who houses our servers in their rack space.

    Anyways, once – someone sent us a DMCA notice about a client site on our servers and their email got caught up in junk/spam filters… whichever.. we didn’t get the mail right away.

    We always respond to DMCA notices – and why? Not just because it’s the right thing to do..but…the folks who sent it to us, and didn’t get a response from us right away? Well, they contacted our upstream provider (in this case, ServerBeach) – and our provider turned around and called us to let us know we had exactly 48 hours to comply with their TOS and deal with our client on the copyright infringement or they would suspend our servers.

    Which would mean.. suspending ALL accounts on our servers. Yike! Needless to say – I’m happy to know our provider has the 48 hour window and that they pickup the phone to call us in such situations (this has only happened once.. every other DMCA, we’ve responded to and resolved right away).

    Moral of the story – – if its a reseller, find out who they are reselling for and send the notice to them. If they are not a reseller, find out who is providing their upstream or rackspace and send the notice to them, as well. At the end, you’ll eventually find someone who gives a hoot.

    thanks for the post – good info!

  • Vishal

    Elitehost!!! My God, how the hell can elite people react that way.
    Thanks for telling about DCMA, I didn’t know anything about that. Do keep updating about such topics. How come did you come to know that the content has been copied, any service (website) that compares content of websites???

  • Nick jones

    The best part, for me anyway, is the suggestion that lawyers would ever tell someone to go away and stop wasting their time. As if that would ever happen. rather obvious that they made no such contact and were just hoping the mention of a legal team would get you to quieten down.

    Ignorance about your business is bad enough, but to compile that with an aggresive attitude and a refusal to check facts beggers belief.

    If the poster himself took it down then it is likely he/she was not actually trying to rip you off. But they should definately think about moving hosts… presumably they are now as well, they obviously read your blog after all!

  • PublicRecordsGuy

    As a paralegal I know the true value of a summons and complaint. It’s my preferred method of dealing with IDIOTIC companies. Things start to change quickly, but you have to be willing to pull the trigger.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Patrix, thanks for sharing, I will check it out.

Comments are closed.