All of my domains and account are disabled-no warn


#1

All of my domains and account are disabled without any warning. I get a message from Dreamhost [Karl] saying:
Your account has been closed for violations of DreamHost’s Terms of Service and US Copyright law for distributing a cracked copy of the
"Civilizations 4" game at: [address]

There was no cracked copy of the game! It was a mod, called ViSa, that users contribute to expand the game. I worked on this mod and offered to host it, happily telling them about Dreamhost’s great service and offer of bandwidth.

So not only is the dreamhosters subdomain disabled, but all of my other domains and email are dead as well.

I was not distributing copyrighted software! I was not hosting the Civ4 game or anything sold by Firaxis! It was an add-on! There are thousands of them out there! Is there no policy to ask, investigate? Just shut me down completely for the wrong reason?


#2

We’re just users like you. Unfortunately, we can’t even plead your case.

I would, however, continue my conversation with support/abuse and even escalate it (assuming you have the rights to the mod and the documentation to back it up).

It is very common now to take down first and then investigate and it is the policy of DH that all domains associated with the user be disabled, not just the “offending”.

Please don’t give up on this, we all need protection. Imagine if my resume had the words “Civilization 498” (a college class) and they just blocked all my accounts? That’s why we need to make sure that proper evaluation occur before just turning things off.

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#3

It’s unfortunate that you were not able to engage the DH support folks in a dialog over this issue before your disablement; I still encourage you to do so as soon as possible.

That said, the issue of game mods and copyright is far from being clear-cut. There is still a body of case law in existence that views many game mods as a “derivative work” subject to copyright protection and licensing restrictions.

You might find it useful to review this article by a respected lawyer in the field, and/or this important community resource regarding copyright and game mods.

It may be that your mod is in fact in violation of copyright law. It is also possible that DH was presented with a DMCA takedown notice, in which case they need to take down the material in a timely fashion in order to avail themselves of the “sae harbor” provisions of the DMCA; it is then up to you to argue that the material is non-infringing.

As to the summary disablement of all your account domains, I am in no position to comment as to the appropriateness of any of that, as I am not privy to the contents of those domains.

I just think you should investigate further the full legal ramifications of your mod, as a mod is not necessarily non-infringing, despite anything you may believe to the contrary. :wink:

–rlparker


#4

I’ll certainly do my best to keep everyone abreast of what DreamHost does about this.

If anyone wants to know where they can read about the file that was considered a game and violating copyright law, and cause for disabling all of my hosting, you can find it here:
http://forums.civfanatics.com/downloads.php?do=file&id=4467
and here:

We were hosting the file on BigUpload until I offered much better performance and reliabilty that I had been experiencing with DreamHost, with great bandwidth.

As stated on those pages, it was a piece of software designed for Warlords 2.0.8.0, an expansion pack of Civ4, and it is an exe installer 326.08 MB in size.

I don’t know who determined it was the game itself, or some crack of the game, but if they suspect you, apparently it means nothing to shut everything down. It’s been 9 hours since it happened, 7 hours since I sent messages to support, and I have received 0 replies.

I would have understood if they simply deleted the file or blocked the suspicious site. But shutting down everything I’m running with poor response time (still waiting) is driving me bonkers. Let this be a message to all DreamHost customers: Karl is nuts. Beware.


#5

If there is any violation of copyright to distribute a mod for a game (and Firaxis encouages as much --seeing as they provide us with a software development kit on their site: http://www.firaxis.com/games/game_detail.php?gameid=6&showcon=2
) and if I’m violating anything, it’s big news to me as well as thousands of others.

And I’m still waiting to engage any DH person in a dialog – maybe they’ll get back to me next week.

Thanks for the interest, I’d like anyone and everyone to be aware of the pain I’m getting from DH. If nine hours stretches to a day I’ll be going nuts.


#6

If DH was, in fact, complying with a DMCA take-down notice, or a cease and desist notification from an attorney, the legalese with which they may have been noticed could be partly responsible for the confusion in the DH reps statement to you about the game being “cracked” (They may have even been told that!)

As I mentioned in my earlier post, they may have disabled your user and if all your stuff was running under a single user then, there you go as to why it was all disabled.

Well now it starts to make sense; while you had me as at least an interested an concerned fellow consumer up until now, you lost me with that one. Now you are starting to sound like a frustrated script kiddie with no more business sense than you have understanding of copyright law. I respectfully suggest that, if you wish to be taken seriously, you drop the personalization of your problem, and the name-calling, and deal with the situation in an adult and professional manner. Think about it for a minute - DH obviously does not want to disable their customers’ sites. The fact that you experienced a disablement means the something went amiss. The professional way to handle such a thing is to work through it calmly and logically - resorting to name calling just hurts your case, as it belittles your position and can prevent others from taking you seriously. :wink:

–rlparker


#7

[quote]If there is any violation of copyright to distribute a mod for a game (and Firaxis encouages as much --seeing as they provide us with a software development kit on their site: http://www.firaxis.com/games/game_detail.php?gameid=6&showcon=2
) and if I’m violating anything, it’s big news to me as well as thousands of others.[/quote]
It may well be “big news to you as well as thousands of others”, which is why I linked you to not only an article by a legal scholar that addresses part of this, but also a wiki entry by members of the Unreal dev community so you could gain some perspective, and additional knowledge.

"A “software development kit” is perfectly usable for your own enjoyment, and the release of such should not be construed as an open invitation to create and distribute “derivative works”. It’s a tricky area of the law;the fact that “fair use” may allow you to mod away for your own benefit doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay to distribute those mods (particularly if the copyright holder feels that such distribution may impact their revenue).

I have no doubt DH will get back to you…you could also escalate the ticket by writing directly to the abuse staff yourself (via the contact page on the main DH site.)

–rlparker


#8

Duly noted, I should not call Karl any names because he sent me an e-mail that stated all my accounts are disabled for a reason that is completely false. Maybe Karl isn’t even responsible for any decision making and maybe there is some attorney who for some reason thinks that this mod to a game is violating copyright laws.

I’m the one going nuts and I am doing my best not too sound foolish or whiney. I do have a problem and I do believe I am being treated unjustly and would like there to be an awareness of how DreamHost is handling their customer policies. I am full of a lot of confusion and a boiling rage but I will not let that bring me to any more name calling. I am intelligent enough to understand that it won’t help me, but boy do I need some stress relief.


#9

I blame the DCMA for everything! It is McCarthyism at it’s finest - with everyone under suspicion (and liable) even for not reacting to accusations quickly enough.

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#10

And I should thank you, rlparker for linking to that excellent article.

While I view this issue as stated in the article, "Currently, manufacturers of PC Games do not allow the creation or use of mods for profit. The rationale for this is that it undercuts the market for the original game and official add-on packs, and weakens the manufacturer’s legal hold on the game. The former is pure nonsense. …Furthermore, good enough mods will also enhance the shelf life of the game, by keeping it new and fresh well after the official development team has moved on to other projects. ", and I wholly discount the notion that Firaxis attorneys would be the cause behind bringing down my site since Firaxis does foster such work, I am open to the notion that they took exception to this one mod for some reason. Maybe they are striking back against all mods and soon enough I’ll hear about it. But I doubt it.

My suspicion is that someone noticed my bandwidth has jumped to close to 500 GB in the past month (and seeing as I’m using my other accounts for nothing more than email and simple text websites with few pictures and much less than 1 GB /month beforehand, I imagine it raised suspicion) but that alone should not be cause to disable my account. My guess is that someone, maybe Karl, decided that the installer must be a game and must be Civ4 without fully exploring it to understand that it is a mod. I can understand that.

And should I even expect a reply from Dreamhost after 6 PM PDT or should I stop wasting my time tonight hoping to get this resolved? As much fun as it would be to beat my head against the wall until I get a resolution, I don’t want to put my life on hold if I’m not going to get anywhere.


#11

[quote]And I should thank you, rlparker for linking to that excellent article.

While I view this issue as stated in the article, "Currently, manufacturers of PC Games do not allow the creation or use of mods for profit. The rationale for this is that it undercuts the market for the original game and official add-on packs, and weakens the manufacturer’s legal hold on the game. The former is pure nonsense. …Furthermore, good enough mods will also enhance the shelf life of the game, by keeping it new and fresh well after the official development team has moved on to other projects. ", and I wholly discount the notion that Firaxis attorneys would be the cause behind bringing down my site since Firaxis does foster such work, I am open to the notion that they took exception to this one mod for some reason. Maybe they are striking back against all mods and soon enough I’ll hear about it. But I doubt it.

My suspicion is that someone noticed my bandwidth has jumped to close to 500 GB in the past month (and seeing as I’m using my other accounts for nothing more than email and simple text websites with few pictures and much less than 1 GB /month beforehand, I imagine it raised suspicion) but that alone should not be cause to disable my account. My guess is that someone, maybe Karl, decided that the installer must be a game and must be Civ4 without fully exploring it to understand that it is a mod. I can understand that.

And should I even expect a reply from Dreamhost after 6 PM PDT or should I stop wasting my time tonight hoping to get this resolved? As much fun as it would be to beat my head against the wall until I get a resolution, I don’t want to put my life on hold if I’m not going to get anywhere.[/quote]
No, DreamHost isn’t going to suspend your account because you used lots of bandwidth. They would not act preemptively without just cause, because DreamHost tends to be extremely lenient as hosts go about individual freedoms.

If you aren’t getting the answers you seek, contact DreamHost again, but since this may be a legal matter, it may require that you contact an intellectual property attorney to advise you as to your rights. This may be something you cannot decide yourself.

Peace,
Gene Steinberg
Co-Host, The Paracast
http://www.theparacast.com
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#12

13 hours after having my account disabled, Karl has kindly re-enabled it and explained that my site did not provide enough information about what file it was hosting and since he doesn’t use a Windows computer, he could not verify if the contents of the file infringed on any copyright infringement. And since it was a large executable, and he didn’t understand that the mod was called Visa, it all seemed too suspicious.

So while that one domain will remain disabled until tomorrow morning when Karl can test it with a Windows computer, all my other sites will be back online within a few hours.

Take from this what you will.

Karl said:

[quote]Originally they were presumed to likely be trojan-infected files aimed at password phishing, though the large size puzzled us. Upon one of our employees downloading, scanning, and running one of these files, I was told this was a cracked game. Since the subdomain looked suspicious, I may have jumped to conclusions. I certainly concede that I should have reviewed the file running on their computer myself (I don’t run Windows),
and that this situation may have been an unfortunate mistake. If this turns out to be the case, I do apologize for the inconvenience.[/quote]


#13

Actually, I too thought the article was pretty good, and I appreciate the fact that the author was advocating a loosening of “strictness” on the subject and taking the position that some existing case law was “bad law”. :slight_smile:

I would also be surprised if Firaxis initiated a take down of the mod, but one never really knows for sure and, as you pointed out, they may have started (or their counsel may have started) some type of a crack down - we really don’t know yet.

In my experience, DH would not retaliate for the heavy bandwidth usage; I know of several very large bandwidth users who have no issues on DH. The bandwidth may very well have triggered an investigation into the contents being downloaded and it seems reasonable to me that DH would investigate that given the circumstances you described.

If Karl actually took it upon himself to make the determination that the file(s) was/were infringing without thorough investigation I believe that would be an overzealous act and that he most certainly could/should have involved you in the discussion.

As it is, it appears that neither you nor I know the full story behind Karl’s actions, and as I said before, I would most certainly pursue the fact on that via further discussion with DH.

I would also expect that you may receive another reply even though after hours (DH tech support does work 24/7), though in this case it may well be that dome “day honcho” may need to be involved with further responses - I wouldn’t give up, but you may well not hear anything back for 24 hours after your last response.

Hang in there, and hopefully you will eventually get to the bottom of it.

–rlparker


#14

That’s a fair enough and gentlemanly response, and does show that you recognize all may not (or indeed may) be as it seems; I think you need to find out a lot more about the circumstances surrounding your disablement.

I also want to make it clear that I don not mean to be, or seem, insensitive to your plight. It is understandably a bad situation, and I would be stressed too. The “boiling rage” part though is probably best tempered with patience until you learn more about who/what/when/where/why etc. - there is plenty of time latter to direct the appropriate wrath at the appropriate parties when you have a better picture of all that was involved. :wink:

Hey, we all need to vent now and then; I was just warning that it is easy for the venting to actually complicate matters, particularly when discussion or investigation is still taking place, and I’d hate to see any legitimate beef you may have obscured by things said in the heat of it all. :slight_smile:

Understand, I’m not of anyone’s side in this discussion - just pointing out that in my experience (and I’ve been with DH for 8 years now) DH will work with you and treat you as fairly as they can within the confines of the restrictions the law places on them. I sincerely wish you all the best in getting this resolved satisfactorily!

–rlparker


#15

Your description of what happened, and Karl’s quoted response are a real cause for concern to me, and I think to all Dreamhost customers.

It smacks badly of the “guilty until proven innocent” method of governance, which is the wrong position for any service provider to take. They may have no choice in acting from that premise if faced with a takedown notice or a cease and desist letter - but to take it upon oneself to make such assumptions does a disservice to the customer and opens the company up to all kinds of further issues.

If a hosting provider takes it upon themselves to “police” in this manner, could they ultimately incur future liability by “missing” one they didn’t “catch”? Having “assumed” the responsibility, are they not obligated to continue such policing?

The DMCA “safe harbor” provisions specifically protect them if they react to takedown notices properly, so there is no need for them to pursue such policing - the law was written this way for a reason.

Hey everyone makes mistakes, but this one strikes me as a “biggie”. I’m sure Karl meant well, but by his own description of what happened, and absent a takedown notice, I believe he should have contacted you first and/or investigated further before pulling the plug. I’m really anxious to hear what, if any, followup on this you receive from DH, and I recommend you bring it to the attention of one of the honchos. That said, no one is perfect and his apology appears genuine and sincere; that should be worth something.

IMHO, what is described happening here is a very “slippery slope” which DH would be well advised to avoid.

I’m glad progress is being made toward making you whole, and would very much appreciate you keeping the rest of us posted on any further developments.

–rlparker


#16

I’m hoping to fall asleep soon but will post updates as they come in. As it is, all of the domains are working, however my mailing lists are not and most importantly, all of my e-mail accounts are not working!

I can look forward to a lot of angry people in the morning if this is not resolved.

When I try to login to an account, I get the message Unknown user or password incorrect.

When I access the email management page in the DH panel, I can see all the addresses listed but there is no login or disk space information displayed. When I go to edit an email address, there is no password information displayed (or a mailbox) in the setup.

So now to add injury to insult, I fear DH has destroyed all my e-mail accounts in this mess.

Seeing as my account is paid through to October 2008, I was planning to put some of my other sites on my DH account. So much for that idea. I’m not sure if I can trust myself not to do anything suspicious to avoid losing all service.


#17

I thank you for making this issue public eby, as it affects myself on a similar level as I host the occasional game mod for an online racing team I am involved with. I will be interested to hear how it all turns out, as I will have to consider whether I will host game mods in the future.

Thanks rlparker for the links to those articles, I have some reading to do.

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#18

I too thank you for sharing the trials and tribulations.

One issue that DH and all hosting providers have to work with is their response to these issues. There are legal ramifications to NOT policing hard and fast, but even more important is that they MUST learn to document and notify the hosting owner at the same time. A single email saying “infringement” isn’t enough. It does need to be slightly more detailed.

I would also recommend that those emails include a contact address that is outside of the normal support channels (like abuse@dreamhost.com) to properly handle communications. We all know that there are legal issues and any delay in gaining representation can be costly.

Just my $.02.

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#19

eby, can you confirm whether this action was initiated by DreamHost of their own volition ? Or did Karl state that they had received a notification of some sort ?

The latter would be acceptable (though freezing a whole account instead of a single domain or directory seems overly harsh), the former conjures up all kinds of troubling notions (no privacy, for starters, even on, say, backups).


#20

To clear up some confusion:

The account in question was found because it was bringing the Apache service down due to too many connections downloading the same ~300 meg executable files simultaneously. The tech who was working on the server status at that time brought it to my attention and said that upon downloading the files they appeared to be a cracked game.

The subdomain the files were hosted under contained no files except “setup.exe” and “visasetup.exe.zip”. No HTML, text, or any other files explaining what the files might contain. Initially due to one of the file names including visa, as well as the subdomain itself including “visa”, phishing/fraud was suspected. The 300 meg size of the files made this incredibly unlikely, so we downloaded and scanned them for viruses. When that turned up empty, the tech who originally came across the Apache service looked at the .cab file for the executable and determined that it looked like a cracked game. I don’t run Windows, so I couldn’t examine it myself, and believed their observation to be probable due to the suspicious nature of the subdomain, and the hundreds of connections downloading the file very common for Warez sites).

I have determined that my judgement was made in error, and I have accordingly apologized to the account owner. The account was reactivated the same day it was disabled, when I checked my email before heading to bed that evening and determined that their claim seemed plausible. The files were reviewed again yesterday (when I was able to access a Windows PC) and the account owner was written this morning to let them know it’s all clear and they may resume distributing the files.

That said, I strongly recommend to anyone reading this to not create empty directories under otherwise-empty subdomains and plop large executable files in them with generic names such as “setup.exe” without some sort of indication as to what the files contain. This particular incident could have been avoided had there been an associated web page accompanying the files, a text file explaining the file contents, or even a hidden file called “.DREAMHOST_README” explaining the file contents.

I do acknowledge that this particular case should have been handled more thoroughly, and that will be something I keep in mind in the future. I would like to publicly apologize again to the account owner in question (OP) for my mistake, and thank them for their patience and understanding while this was resolved.

As for this case’s perceived implications to everyone else – we almost always write folks about copyright concerns before taking action, except in the most egregious cases. This case was simply judged mistakenly. On the whole, unless you’re hosting Warez you have nothing to worry about. If you’re hosting files that you think we might suspect to be Warez, just ensure that the domain they are hosted under pertains to the files (ie: we certainly would view it reasonable to host game mod .exe files under a domain that has a web page about a game mod) and, preferrably, that the file names pertain to what the file contains, rather than something generic like “setup.exe”. If you want to be extra careful, create a hidden file called “.DREAMHOST_README” in the same directory with some text clarifying the files’ purpose. Any of these measures should prevent a situation like occurred here, as we do generally give people the benefit of the doubt.

Karl
DreamHost Abuse Team