Reviewer Caught Posting Marketing Material As A Review... Uses DMCA To Takedown

Sat, 31st July 2010, 14:18

Reviews that can not be confirmed, are bogus, or even fraudulent, are nothing new at HostJury. Over the years, they have been posted by all sorts of individuals from a host's competitor trying to tarnish a otherwise solid reputation, a site trying to get a SEO link, friends and family of web hosts, and it even has been known for a host to occasionally try to post a “fraudulent” review themselves!

Normally the reviews are just removed although there has been occasions where we have called the host out on the issue.  Sometimes it has become so blatant that we have edited the company's profile to state that they continually post fraud reviews.

So I found quite humorous the tale of professional freelance journalist Stuart Campbell, who “outed” on his blog, an on line review published by the site BenchmarkReviews. The review of a rather expensive Herman Miller office chair that was written by the site owner Orlin Coles.

“In looking through the details, it quickly became clear that the "review" text appeared to have copied potentially large segments from either marketing material or a press release. Some of the sources of the material were found out -- including a Herman Miller product brochure and a furniture store company's product description. As people commented on the BenchmarkReviews website pointing this out, those comments were swiftly deleted, and the users' IP addresses were banned”, Stewart Campbell states on his blog.

Campbell then sent Coles an email, identifying himself and asking a series of questions about the "review." Instead of replying, Olin Coles posted a note to BenchmarkReview's forums, publicly naming Campbell, claiming that Campbell was banned from the site for making "anonymous threats."

Next, a reader of Campbell's site contacted the furniture store in question, Smart Furniture, who claimed that they had written their own product description, suggesting that Benchmark Review may have copied it from Smart Furniture. Suddenly the text of the original review at Benchmark Review started gradually morphing, with no notice of the changes. Of course, Campbell had the originals and highlighted the ongoing changes. Oddly, the newly changed review included a whole bunch of ads pointing to Smart Furniture.

That's when things got nasty. Apparently Coles sent a DMCA takedown to Campbell's web hosting provider JustHost.  JustHost pulled down the entire site. Campbell continues "JustHost seemed utterly clueless about how to properly handle a DMCA takedown notice and counternotice. WoSblog was eventually reinstated by JustHost with the alleged offending material temporarily removed, pending someone arriving in their offices who knows more about copyright law than a squirrel".

HostJury covered DMCA take down notices in a prior story recently!  HostJury has contacted JustHost for a comment.