Netcetera Are Spineless Morons
A while back I reproduced a page from Quackometer.net which the website’s owner had been forced to take down after the Society of Homeopaths threatened them with some unspecified legal action, claiming the pages were defamatory (which they were, assuming you define “defamatory” to include things with are both nasty and true).
A while after that, I mentioned a second incident, where a crazy man called Joseph Chikelue Obi pulled a similar stunt, presumably because he’d seen it work for the Society of Homeopaths but hadn’t noticed that the page had been reproduced on about 50 other websites (or as Joseph Chikelue Obi calls them, “5,000 defamatory bloggers” – or as Gimpy calls them, “let slip the blogs of war”).
Well, the thoroughly lovely people at Positive Internet have offered to host the site for him, which is good because Netcetera have stopped.
Thanks for your comments. We do not wish to be in a position where we could be taken to court, and incur the loss of time and expense that would involve.
…Therefore we have decided to breach our contract and refuse to provide the service for which we were paid. This seemed like a good idea at the time.
Consequently Netcetera have decided to suspend the Quackometer website, with reference to our Acceptable Usage Policy, the first part of which is quoted below. The full policy can be found on our website www.netcetera.im/SiteInfo/AUP/ ‘Acceptable Usage Policy This policy is subject to change, without alternate notice, so please check regularly for updates. This policy is in addition, and considered part of Netcetera’s Terms and Conditions. Netcetera will be the sole arbiter as to what constitutes a violation of this provision. 1) Web Hosting 1.1) Netcetera reserves the right to suspend or cancel a customer’s access to any or all services provided by Netcetera, where Netcetera decides that the account has been inappropriately used. Netcetera reserves the right to refuse service and /or access to its servers to anyone.’
It occurs to me that that isn’t an acceptable use policy, that is an insurance policy. It’s a pathetic attempt to free themselves of any contractual obligations whatsoever. I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure this would not fly in a courtroom. I’m sure at least that statements like “this policy is subject to change, without alternate notice, so please check regularly for updates” have been overturned by judges before now:
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the US has held that companies cannot unilaterally vary the terms of a contract such as this one by merely updating their website, and that actual notice is required to users.
That’s from a discussion of Facebook’s user agreement. And Facebook don’t charge you so this is far worse.
We will prevent public access to the site as of noon today 18th February 2008.
It’s worth mentioning that this email was sent at about 11:40 AM on the 18th of February 2008, as if that’s good enough.
You will be able to access the content to be able to transfer it to another host if you so wish. We will hold the content available to you for 30 days, and then we will remove it from our servers. Regards
So, in short, Netcetera think it’s okay to screw their paying customers because somebody who is not a customer asks them to. It would be the work of but a few moments to Google Joseph Chikelue Obi and discover he’s a fraudster. In fact, Googling him would be pointless as the complaint must have included a link to the pages being complained about, which are littered with references to newspapers chronicling his fraud. I’m at a loss to see how they hope to make money this way, although I presume it involves getting people to pay them for a service and not providing it, thus generating a near-100% profit margin. There really isn’t any chance that this quack could put up a decent court case. No chance at all. Apparently, Netcetera don’t want the good PR that would come with standing up for their customers at almost no personal risk.
I can only surmise that Netcetera are a pack of spineless morons. I really can’t think of any other explanation for their actions.
On a largely unrelated note, here is a laughably ridiculous report by Joseph Chikelue Obi about all this.