I have owned a PR company for 11 years. I specialize in getting clients beneficial exposure through the media for their career, projects, and legacy. I never thought I would encounter a business situation with so many slippery turns for me and millions of other people, but indeed I have. The essential question I am asking is: Is it Legal for a company to deny you your website and your right to it, by insisting that you provide them with something that does not exist in the physical world, or in cyberspace.
To preface the Kafka horror and stupidity to come, it’s useful to think of cyberspace as outer space. For professionals today, our vehicles for navigating that space are our websites.They are our vessels, containing the wealth in their holds that is our Content: our biography; our resume; our collection of accomplishments archived so that others may know what we do and decide to hire us. So for each of us on this voyage into cyberspace, our Starships are our Websites. Well, for me at this point, what I am experiencing is faceless pirates have hi-jacked my website. I have no idea towards what worlds my site is listlessly drifting. I am the captain, but I am not being allowed to helm the ship; and now it is useless space junk floating in the ether.
How did this happen? I signed on with a web-hosting service in February of 2005. A friend had developed my website and and then we chose a web-hosting company that had a good word of mouth at that time. The service contract I signed provided me with web-hosting for 2 years, and I re-upped two times: the last time on February 2009, when I signed up for a two-year contract. To my alarm, on February 1st of 2011, my website was no longer on line, but had a banner greeting me which said : No Longer Available. I called the company immediately and have now been calling them for the last two weeks to re-up the website contract and get me online again. My business is suffering ferociously, because in a PR business if you are not available for more than a day or two: people assume you are finito! out of business! Gone!
The phone professionals at this company (I have spoken to seven to date) have one thing to tell me. I need to give them the last four digits of the debit card that I used to pay with, back in 2009. That particular debit card was a Washington Mutual debit card. Washington Mutual no longer exists in the world. Washington Mutual was bought out by Chase in summer 2009. There is, according to Chase Bank, no kept records of debit cards from Washington Mutual. Period. No such thing exists. I tell this to the web-hosting company and they say: You have got to find the digits of that no-existent card. That is the only method that this company has for verifying who you are.
I tell them again: Chase Bank says that the card no longer exists in any of their files and that is that. There must be Some Way to verify me: i.e. I know my email address from 2009, I know my password; my web person can verify for you who I am, and you can check the art content on my website against the art content I have up on other sites online. Also, you can simply contact my current bank and find out that I am indeed the very same Tom Brennan.
Again they answer me with the absurd Catch-22 of all time: I have got to find the digits of that no-longer existent credit card. I tell them: the card I used to begin service with your company in 2005 was an entirely different credit card from the debit card you have on file. How, then did you let me re-up in 2009 with the Washington Mutual Card rather than the initial B of A card that was twice used to pay for your service? They have no answer for this.
At the current time, my primary goal has become to find out: what is going to happen to my website content, all of which is proprietary and represents my unique methods of garnering PR for clients. What is of primary import to me now is to find out what will become of My Career, My Projects, My Legacy? This company, through its employees, has given me three different scenarios as to how long my online content will remain my property! One employee said: one year; one employee said 4 months; and one employee said : One full month, which gives me about 12 more days. And again, all I to do is pay them and just keep my website proudly afloat. It is mine and it is my business that they are pirating away from me.
I do not feel good in the gut at all as an American citizen who is dependent on his online presence to make a living and then to have that medium shut down to me because of the insane and improper conduct of a company I paid to safeguard me. Will my domain name be sold for their gain? Will my art be sold for their gain? The company is only vague and changeable when answering those questions. I am right now being Denied the right to my content: which includes saleable art works, and also press release, and even some original short story writing. All my creative output represented on this site is supposed to be “Up For Grabs”, just because I cannot produce something that does not exist. I cannot produce the digits from the no-longer existent debit card just as much as none of us can name the tribe that lives at the Center of The Earth, or the leader of the Roswell Grays. So why do they keep asking me this nonsense? It is like a climb up the rickety steps in Kafka’s Castle. The more I climb the stairs of logic of this company, the farther lost I am getting. So essentially, this web-hosting company is being deliberately absurd, toward no safety goal for websites, and deliberately fraudulent through this method.
I write this just to put the word out and get some action from those more knowledgeable on matters of Legal Rights of Websites and Cyberspace. I need someone to simply rally with me and realize that you too, as you change address or scissor an old card, or close an account or move (all normal American activities) will be subject to these same insane whims masquerading as business. This company and its way of doing business by interfering with business needs to be outed; and questions such as security verification need to be made sane so that all of our rights, both consumers and service-providers, are protected. But this “my way or the high way” this company is propounding is plain crazy.
The gist of it seems to be as simple as: Is it Legal in a Contract for one party to ask for something that does not exist. One of the operators at that company said to me jeeringly at one point” Well, why don’t you call the FBI and have them force Chase to find out Washington Mutual records?”, and I said to myself “Huh?” But as I now think about it, his joke too, might actually be a way to proceed. At least call the FBI and ask what they make of this situation and find out if it is consistent with any patterns of ID theft ,etc.
I am being robbed of my ability to work by either insane policy or deliberate fraud of a web-hosting company I paid the full fee for to provide me with a service. I never signed on with them to have my business grievously injured in this way
As New Technology is being hailed for the freedom in Egypt; New Technology right now in America is depriving me of my rights. And somewhere up there in Cyberspace, my Website drifts, temporarily condemned to be space junk. I do vow to get her back from the pirates.
Author: Tom Brennan is the owner and founder of Tom Brennan Media, located in Santa Monica, Ca. He receives high marks from Major Mainstream Media for his dedication to accuracy and clear communication. He has personally overseen some of the most important news stories of the last decade. He is also an acknowledged Visual Artist.
Wow, what an annoying situation. I don’t think they can legally use your material just because they hosted your website, but it would still be really bad if you lose your domain name. I’m not very savvy as far as building websites is concerned but this company sounds very sketchy.
Tom, will you consider revealing the name of this hosting company? A public complaint could turn into a public resolution and bring attention to both your specific problem, and to the shortcomings of the hosting co.
This scenario is why I have my domain names with one company and my hosting with another company. If I ever have problems with my web host (which I haven’t) I can just get another and point my nameservers to that account, re-upload my sites (which are backed up) and be on my merry way.
Content produced by you is automatically copyrighted and legally they can’t steal it. I would consult a lawyer to see what recourse you can take.