Some of you may know about TheTarotChannel.com, a Tarot news and information site I created because, well, I’m all about the deck T. S. Elliott called "a wicked pack of cards."
This morning, that website vanished without warning. I was on the verge of submitting a trouble ticket to TypePad.com, when I found in my spam filter a notification from GoDaddy.com / Wild West Domains that my domain had been suspended as a result of GoDaddy.com having received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA) complaint.
So, here’s the situation in a nutshell.
Each article on TheTarotChannel.com is usually accompanied by a postage stamp-sized illustration — usually a product image, photograph, or piece of clip art related to the content of the post. A recent post on people’s fear of Tarot cards was accompanied by an excerpt from a work entitled "Phobia" by an artist named Liza Phoenix, whose work I admire. While I didn’t ask for permission to use the image — and, in hindsight, that was wrong — I did credit Liza for her work, express my appreciation for it, provide a link back to her website, and encourage people to become familiar with her art.
At some point, Ms. Phoenix was alerted to the presence of the image on TheTarotChannel.com. I’m an easy guy to reach — and an admirer of hers, to boot. If the use of the image displeased her, she could have dropped me an email, asked me to remove it, and I would have complied. The entire issue could have been handled in seconds.
Instead — like someone who sues the neighbors instead of just asking them to keep their kids from stealing plums off the backyard tree — Ms. Phoenix filed a DMCA complaint with my domain name registrar. As a result, without warning me or giving me a chance to make things right, my domain name registrar yanked TheTarotChannel.com off the internet.
The information I received from GoDaddy.com, by the way, doesn’t seem to be very customer-focused. While it provides me with about a half-hour’s worth of paperwork and legal forms to fill out, it doesn’t tell me the one thing a customer wants to know: after I’ve complied with all the legal demands, how long it will take for GoDaddy.com to restore my site?
What’s the ultimate outcome of all this?
1) The integrity of Ms. Phoenix’s work, "Phobia," has been protected.
2) The image and all links to her website have been removed from the article on TheTarotChannel.com. As a result, more than 700 readers per week will no longer have the opportunity to discover, appreciate, or purchase her work.
3) Because she jumped right to a DMCA filing instead of just approaching me, I’ve been converted from an ardent admirer to an anti-fan. I just can’t enjoy or appreciate her work any more.
I’m not sure how that’s a "win" for Ms. Phoenix, but there you go.
Meantime, after ten years of doing business with them, I’ve been soured on a company I’ve recommended to dozens of friends and clients: ez-domainregistration.com. Turns out, despite the fact their web site never references GoDaddy.com, that they’re GoDaddy.com operating behind a mask. Letters from their customer service department today made it clear to me that:
– they will continue to yank down any site that gets a DMCA complaint filed against it, whether that filing is legitimate or not
– they will not offer customers the opportunity to make things right *before* the site is yanked
– they will not tell customers how long it will take them to restore the site
That doesn’t strike me as a customer-friendly policy, so I’ll now be taking on the considerable time and expense involved in shifting a dozen domain names away from this registrar to one that’s less reactionary and more customer-focused.
What a mess.
PS: Because GoDaddy.com’s notification included a copy of Ms. Phoenix’s personal email address and home phone number (!), I should mention that I’ve sent a letter of apology to Ms. Phoenix, repenting for having used her work without permission. I’ve not yet received a reply.