Exciting Benchmark Reviews update #4

WoSblog apologises for any inconvenience caused to would-be viewers this afternoon, when for several hours visitors to the site were confronted with the image below.

The blog’s suspension for much of yesterday was the result of yet another desperately stupid attempt by Olin Coles, brainless and cowardly owner of the discredited “review” site Benchmark Reviews, to suppress the evidence of his site’s dishonest practices.

At around 4pm I went to check the progress of the site’s rocketing hit counter, which had been spiking skywards ever since the story was passingly mentioned in a footnote to a piece on Reghardware.com. Seeing only the “Suspended” screen, I hurried to my email account and found the following:


Hi Stuart,

We have suspended your account for copyright infringement.
Please find the complaint below:
================================

This is a Digital Millennium Copyright Act compliance complaint.

This message is to inform you that the website podgamer.com located at xx.xxx.xx.xxx has infringed upon the copyright of Performance Computers, Inc, a registered corporation located in Nevada, USA. Several images and
copyrighted text has been taken from our original story located at:
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=562&Itemid=58> &task=view&id=562&Itemid=58.

Domain: podgamer.com

Website IP: xx.xxx.xx.xxx

Page containing copyrighted text:
http://wosblog.podgamer.com/2010/07/21/benchmark-reviews-busted-more-like/

Copyrighted image:
http://wosblog.podgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/benchmark.jpg

Copyrighted image:
http://wosblog.podgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/hermanp6-450×235.jpg

We respectfully request that you take immediate action to remove all
copyrighted material from the website podgamer.com. Your prompt response
will mitigate potential legal costs and prosecution under the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1996.

Thank you for your cooperation.
<Digitally signed>
Olin Coles
President, Designated Agent
olin@benchmarkreviews.com
Performance Computers, Inc.
BenchmarkReviews.com
==========================

Thank you.


Kind regards,
Naomi Michell
Just Host
www.justhost.com


You’ve got to admire the friendly “Hi Stuart”, haven’t you? Despite it, JustHost had locked down the entire site without so much as a warning about the alleged infringing material – which is, of course, not infringing at all, as the use of small extracts for the purposes of news reporting is covered by “fair use” under the DMCA.

I immediately sent off an email, and also phoned the “24/7 live support”, to whom my call was very important – so important, in fact, that they answered it in barely over 20 minutes. Taking care not to leave them in any doubt as to the extent of my dissatisfaction, I explained the situation briefly, and was promised that someone would get back to me within no more than two hours.

In the meantime I informed the WoS Forum of developments, whereupon alert viewer “djc” – to whom I’m indebted – provided some very useful information with regard to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, under which Coles had had the site taken down.

Armed with this information, I was able to send off another email to JustHost, in the form of a “DMCA counter-notice”, a legal procedure which if done correctly compels JustHost to “expeditiously” put the site back up, while protecting them from liability should Olin Coles be so epically stupid as to try to bring an actual lawsuit in respect of the alleged copyright infringement.

(And hey, judging by his idiot antics so far, you couldn’t rule it out.)

Two hours later, I rang JustHost again (21 minutes on hold this time) and spoke to a lady who went off for another few minutes and then came back to tell me the site had been restored, which it had. Hurrah!

I was about halfway through writing this post in celebration when the screen suddenly went very strange, and I could see the “Suspended” screen in the background again. I quickly saved the text and went back to the homepage, and sure enough we were locked down again. Hngh.

Back to the phone, and this time it took 35 minutes for my “very important” call to get through to Customer Support. After a few minutes speaking to someone clearly very far away (I could hear a faint echo of my voice coming back a couple of seconds after I’d spoken) and whose accent I could barely make out, I was told that phone support had basically no power to do anything and I’d have to wait for the “senior technicians” to sort things out and get back to me by email.

However, they did advise me that there was an online live support, which I’d missed before due to it being stuck in the bottom corner of the JustHost homepage, so I got onto that and was connected within a minute or so.

I went through my new-found expert knowledge of the DMCA, and without ever really explaining anything, the online support promised the site would be online again within 30 minutes. An hour later it still wasn’t, so I went back to ask, except now the Live Chat window just came up with a blank white page in every browser I tried.

A friend confirmed that it worked fine for them, so I got them to log in and pretend to be me. (Could they really have been blocking my IP for live support chat? It looks like it.) We went through a crazy pantomime via MSN, after which I was eventually told (through my friend) that I’d hear from the billing department – why the billing department? – “In next few hours” (it was already 10pm by then).

And then, astoundingly, this happened:

Darren: Is there anything else I can help you with? [The use of the word ‘else’ was amusing at least.]

Darren: sorry only they will be able to update regarding this issue

Darren: We are pleased to bring to your attention the following offer.

Darren: Let us take away any worries of accidental deletion or modification of your website or files by backing up your site on a daily basis. If you ever need a previous days backup, just let us know and we will happily restore or upload backups for you – $19.95 per year.

Darren: Thank you for visiting Hosting Support. Should you have any queries or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Darren: Have a nice day!! Good Bye.

Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.

That’s right, viewers – “Darren” fed me another load of guff, tried to flog me a backup service for my suspended blog (a veiled blackmail threat, maybe?), and then hung up on me. This was rapidly turning into the wackiest day ever.

I was about to give up for the evening when, unexpectedly, an email arrived.

“Hi Stuart

Thanks for your email

Please remove the following image and we will agree to unsuspend unless further allegations are made against us.

http://wosblog.podgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/benchmark.jpg

http://wosblog.podgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/hermanp6-450×235.jpg

and any copy and pasted text:

http://wosblog.podgamer.com/2010/07/21/benchmark-reviews-busted-more-like/

Please let me know if you require any further assistance.

Kind Regards

Nick

Nickolas Pearce-Evered
Billing Supervisor
www.Justhost.com

I emailed straight back, inquiring as to how I was supposed to do anything while my account was suspended and locked, the fucking idiots. (I’d checked, and still had no FTP access.) A few minutes later another email arrived, saying the site had been restored, but if the listed items hadn’t been removed within 24 hours it’d be suspended again. Then things got REALLY zany.

While pointing out that JustHost was legally REQUIRED to restore the content once I’d filed the DMCA counter-notice, I agreed to remove the listed items in the meantime to get the site back online. I was in the process of doing so when once again the site was locked up, this time with a 403 Forbidden error. Another email from JustHost revealed why:

“Hi Stuart,

Your account was opened for your IP address only.
Please remove the mentioned content as soon as possible.

Thank you.
__
Kind regards,
Oliver Leach,
Just Host
www.justhost.com

(Two colleagues had been retrieving files via FTP for backup purposes once access was restored, nobody having said this was not allowed.)

Eventually, in the small hours of the morning, access was restored and the items in question have been temporarily removed pending someone at JustHost who knows their arse from their elbow looking into the matter. Hopefully the site should be publicly viewable within an hour or two.

In the meantime, Olin Coles has been haring around the web trying desperately to suppress the entire internet. He’s contacted Zetaboards to have two images removed from the WoS Forum. (Luckily, because Zetaboards AREN’T complete dicks they merely removed the images rather than shutting down the entire site, and even helpfully provided a link by which to file a DMCA counter-notice should we wish to get them back.)

He’s also raised some kind of complaint with WordPress about the old WoSblog on wp.com – the backup versions of all the Benchmark Reviews posts are all still there, but I can’t currently make any new posts. And for all I know he’s sticking pins in a voodoo doll and doing special dances in the nude in his back garden with his face smeared with mud as well.

Stay tuned for the latest exciting developments!

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6 Responses to “Exciting Benchmark Reviews update #4”

  1. Olin Coles Says:

    Nyooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  2. Katsumoto Says:

    Trying to find out more about this Olin Coles character, I came across this interview with him at “Testfreaks.com” – http://www.testfreaks.com/blog/interview/interview-with-olin-coles-of-benchmark-reviews/

    Q: What do you feel makes your reviews unique?

    “…On the other hand, I know that my own reviews have crossed the line a few times; such as when I call-out a manufacturer for dishonest marketing practices or conditional product treatment. Many websites would like to please their product sponsors with every review, but I’ve burned too many bridges with them for that to matter at this point”

    Classic.

  3. Interesting stuff. I guess it does shine a light on crap hosting companies as much as the fair use of material for reporting. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to deal with this sort of juggernaut treatment, especially since it’s US law.

  4. Wow. Just… wow. This sounds like the kind of thing which should be put out to mainstream media, because this story just got a whole lot more important.

  5. Welcome to the exciting world of WordPress, Stu. I’m sorry the chairpeople are such cunts.

  6. Good lord. Just Host has behaved despicably. It’s good to know they can be crossed off the list of hosts sane people should consider using. I hope you’re making plans to switch.

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