modern culture since 1991

Wings over Sealand


Exciting Benchmark Reviews update #4

Posted on July 24, 2010 by RevStu

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 desperate attempt by Olin Coles, the in-no-way brainless and cowardly owner of widely discredited "review" site Benchmark Reviews, to suppress the evidence of his site's not-at-all 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. 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 in full, 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!

17 to “Exciting Benchmark Reviews update #4”

  1. Jambe says:

    You kept the images, didn't you?  Good Lord, man, say you did!
    By the way, deliberately fraudulent filing of DMCA takedown notices can carry a conviction of perjury…

  2. Martin says:

    Followed this story from the Reg Hardware site, fascinating story!  Have subscribed so I can keep updated

  3. VLII says:

    RevStu, on a scale of 1-10 how satisfying do you find it that some person(s) on the internet whom you don't know nor care about are thinking about you, obsessing over you, so wrapped up in constant thoughts about you that they even pretend to be you (your stalker blog and its comments for example)?  Secondly, also on a scale of 1-10 how enjoyable it is to know just how thoroughly you've made someone your bitch that there's constant evidence of how, even years after you've had some argument with some internet user, they'e clearly still wrapped up in thoughts of you that you may as well have laid eggs in their head, the poor besotted fools?  1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest.

  4. Matt says:

    Glad the site is back. What a palaver!
     

  5. Marc says:

    It's not just a site that sells chairs, it's a site that misleads its readers in order to sell chairs, and then acts dishonestly when challenged about it. If everyone backed down after this type of bullying behaviour, these dickheads would rule the internet and it would be next to impossible to find good information (oh wait – it's already like that).
    I say: go, stu!

  6. RevStu says:

    "Secondly, also on a scale of 1-10 how enjoyable it is to know just how thoroughly you've made someone your bitch that there's constant evidence of how, even years after you've had some argument with some internet user, they'e clearly still wrapped up in thoughts of you that you may as well have laid eggs in their head, the poor besotted fools?  1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest."

    I'd have to say 9. They're even desperately comment-spamming this very thread (and being deleted, of course), and I'm told they've spent actual money to register a domain for their stalker blog. Which is all very flattering, but I have to take 1 point off for the sheer creepiness.

  7. Log says:

    Surely this is the point at which the story becomes interested on a wider level, and this Olin Coles idiot is just ensuring that his dishonest malevolence will become more notorious?
    You'd hope, anyway.

  8. Plissken says:

    Just wondering, if the text is copyrighted to Benchmark Reviews and that is sufficient to get a DMCA takedown on your site, is Smart Furnitures website still up?  After all, lots of the same words appear there…

  9. RevStu says:

    "Surely this is the point at which the story becomes interested on a wider level, and this Olin Coles idiot is just ensuring that his dishonest malevolence will become more notorious?"

    You'd certainly hope so. It's now been on the Register, Metafilter, front page of Boing Boing, tweeted by Graham Linehan, blogged by numerous people, and has smashed every WoSblog traffic record to pieces.

    Tens and tens of thousands of people now know that Olin Coles is a dishonest, corrupt, cowardly liar and that his website is nothing but a shill front. Awesome damage limitation there, idiot.

    Keep on spreading the news, chums.

  10. LS says:

    Stu,
    Maybe you need to find a bloghost who knows the aforementioned difference between arse and elbow…

  11. RocketRanger says:

    One would think that Mr Coles, having claimed to have spent a considerable amount of time reclining in the Herman MIller Embody chair would be a totally chilled out individual. Clearly these are not the actions of a man that settles his posterior in a chair that goes a step beyond being merely "health-neutral". 

  12. RevStu says:

    In fairness, if you actually look at the review it says “heath-neutral”. So all we can say for sure is that the chair doesn’t create or destroy any tracts of uncultivated land.

  13. Pace says:

    Nice work, go get him Stu.

  14. wildthing says:

    Excellent to see this making waves on other internet shores such as boingboing. I never thought 'wos' and boing boing, two of my favourite sites, would ever cross paths!
    More importantly this issue of journalistic integrity and accountability, no matter how small or posterior inclined, is really incredibly important. If journalists slip into the same damaged light as contemporary western politics then we're in huge trouble as a society. 
    Journalism maybe one of the last bastions of hope we have to really change things – take wiki leaks for example.
    And let's face it, things have to change.

  15. Slideshow Bob says:

    I agree with wildthing that journalistic integrity and accountability are important and wiki leaks is a great example.
    But I can't help but feel this whole affair is getting a bit petty and personal on both sides.

  16. RevStu says:

    I think it got pretty personal and petty straight away, when Olin Coles published my address and phone number on the internet for politely asking a fair question. I have his address and phone number too, but I’m not that personal and petty.

  17. Slideshow Bob says:

    So you admit to being personal and petty :D
    Have you at least spied on him on Google maps?



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