(Personal note: Before I begin this, I want to make it clear I that I get no satisfaction from making this report and I realize that most users of this site are legitimate. Personally, I hate giving out "villain" ratings to companies as I am loathe to think of anyone could knowingly work against artists trying to stop plagiarists. Nonetheless, it is sometimes my duty to do so as honest reporting of hosts’ cooperation is part of what this site is about.)
Update 4/21: This story is rapidly developing and will be updated shortly. Xanga has responded to me via email and much of what is said below could become obsolete information very quickly. See more recent posts on the subject for additional information.
If you ever have to deal with someone plagiarizing your works on line, hope that they aren’t using Xanga. For Xanga, without a doubt, is the least cooperative host that I have ever worked with. Their copyright policy is, in a word, reckless and shows absolutely no consideration for Webmasters who have had their content pilfered and even violates U.S. law.
Worst of all, Xanga, as a social networking site, is growing rapidly in the number of users as well as the number of cases of plagiarism. If the policy remains as it is, Xanga could easily become the plagiarism capital of Web 2.0.
The Silence is Deafening
During my most recent rash of plagiarism fighting, I discovered about a dozen misuses of my work taking place on Xanga. Though some of the uses were older, indicating that, possibly, Xanga blogs are only recently being picked up by the search engines, most were new and some even belonged to users actively plagiarizing my works.
Since many Xanga accounts have limited, if any, means of contact the account holders, I found myself seeking out contact information for Xanga. First, I discovered that they were not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, a requirement of the DMCA (PDF), and then sought out to contact their abuse team, the typical next step when official contact information isn’t available.
That search, in turn, lead me to their abuse form, which I then used on March 15 and 16 to file six different complaints against infringing accounts. In each case, I used a full DMCA notice, to ensure that they could act upon the complaint, and provided all pertinent information. I then waited for a reply.
Nearly a week later, long after all of the other hosts written at the same time had responded, I checked to see if there had been any action on the Xanga links. All of the infringing material was still up and I had not received a letter from the Xanga team. Unless all of their replies had somehow been chewed up in my spam filters (I use GMail for handling all of my mail), they had done nothing about any of my complaints.
Sadly, that was only the beginning of the stonewalling.
No Signs of Life
Concerned that, perhaps, my abuse reports didn’t go through, I decided to call Xanga and try to speak with them. I did a whois search for Xanga’s info and dialed the number that came with it.
I got a voice recording thanking me for calling Xanga and then to dial my party’s extension. Not having one, I waited for more information. Instead, the recording just told me that, if I had a question about an abuse problem, that I should email their abuse account.
The recording then hung up.
Frustrated, but not defeated, on March 22 I emailed the account informing them that I had sent in the DMCA notices and that I was looking for an update on them. Days passed and I heard nothing back. By this time, almost two weeks had passed and I had not heard a single word from Xanga, despite nearly a dozen letters via different channels and a phone call.
Eventually, the logjam of plagiarism cases stalled by Xanga was so great that I had to create a separate folder for the stalled cases to keep them out of my usual queue. When I did that, the number of cases marked "awaiting reply" dropped by ninety percent and most of the ones remaining were cases that involved cease and desist letters, not DMCA notices.
Little did I know, however, that the worst was yet to come.
It was then that I began to explore alternative means of resolving the matter. On March 27, I did what any journalist would do and contacted Xanga’s press team to inform them that I was working on this article and get their comment. Once again, I heard nothing back.
I then, on March 29th, stumbled across the blog of a (former?) copyright-minded Xanga employee John Hiler and emailed him to ask his guidance. Sadly, that letter bounced back saying that the mailbox was too full to receive any mail.
It was then that I began to consider sending a fax to Xanga in hopes that leaving a paper trail my garter more attention. I returned to the whois page and made a startling discovery: The fax number is false. Instead of a legitimate fax number, Xanga listed simply "123 123 1234".
While a fax number is not a requirement to register a domain name and private registrations are common (Plagiarismtoday.com uses one for that matter) all contact information provided is supposed to be a valid means of getting in touch with the individuals in charge. So long as the service that handles my private registration is functioning properly, all information in my whois serves as valid contact data.
Large companies, generally, are held to a higher standard than private individuals when it comes to registering domains. Since they host content for other people, they have a higher responsibility to be transparent for the sake of copyright holders, law enforcement and anyone else that might need to contact them.
Though they, supposedly, provide forms for all of those things. It’s clear that they don’t answer them, at least in my case, and have done just about everything they can to avoid dealing with someone who might need to contact them with a copyright matter.
In the end, I am left with but one option, the postal address. I am currently preparing a lengthy letter that I will send to them via certified mail. I will follow up and let everyone know if that produces any results.
In the meantime though, I’m left with over a dozen Xanga cases and no means to resolve them. For whatever reason, Xanga has made it patently impossible for me to enforce my copyright on their servers and that has left me grasping at straws as I look for a solution.
Sadly, I don’t see any coming and I fear that this could be a very bad sign for what may eventually become of Xanga. I hope that I am wrong about this and everything is just a misunderstanding (which, if it is, I will gladly admit). But at the moment, I don’t see how.
Sad, but true.
[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, Xanga, DMCA[/tags]