Do you think ransomware is the only type of culprit to hold a website hostage?

This is bit of warning about how your creative assets can be held hostage. It’s another post that started from a social media post and a place of frustration on behalf of a client. So here is how the situation goes:

I have a client who has a website that is being held hostage because she terminated a contract for non-performance. Basically, she hired the company do SEO work. This is not the first time I have seen it but it is the first time I have seen someone file a copyright infringement claim – even the web host provider says this type of action is rare.

Please, please, please be sure that when you sign a web development/hosting/SEO/anything contract that you DO NOT sign over ownership of your content, design, etc. This is your branding. The vendor is working for you. There are plenty of web developers that work in good faith, even when they are risking not getting paid.

A couple of tips to protect yourself:

• own your own domain
• be sure you have access to your hosting account
• keep accounts in your name
• back up your website regularly

Following the above tips doesn’t mean that the other non-performing vendor can’t take malicious actions to unhinge your website but you have to protect yourself as much as possible. This doesn’t happen that often but it DOES happen.

When a copyright infringement claim is filed with your web host provider, they have no choice but to take down your website in order to comply with the law. The host provider may put up a page for all to see, asking the owner to call a phone number to get more information and ask that your visitors come back soon. Obviously, this is not ideal and can be embarrassing. Making matters worse, is the legal process that you have to go through to get your content back.

The most infuriating part of this is that your website can be taken down regardless of whether you are innocent or not. As in this case, it could very well be the malicious attempt of a contemptuous party that wants to create distractions and undermine your ability to do business. The web host provider has no choice but to remove the content for a period of time.

As for my client, the site is currently down but we are in the process of creating some workarounds until they are able to get through this.

SIDE NOTE: There are legitimate reasons for artists to file copyright infringement claims. Don’t be that guy that uses images or creative work without obtaining permission or purchasing rights. It will cost you a lot of money and hassle to work through. And frankly, that’s just not cool either. 

Do you need some help on what to look for when hiring a website developer or SEO provider? Contact me today for assistance!