Someone Stole My Website: A Cautionary Tale

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Hi, I’m the pretty, real Sexy Feminist of 2013!

Heather Wood Rudúlph and I started a website in 2006. First it was called SirensMag.com, because everyone was into this “online magazine” idea then, and eventually it evolved into SexyFeminist.com, because we figured out that we were running a feminist website! In 2013, we wrote a book based on it, called Sexy Feminism, which was cool because I got to write a book with my best friend. Yay, us.

We stopped publishing on the website shortly thereafter, feeling like we’d said everything we had wanted to say. Last year, we decided to take the site down so that we didn’t have to continue to pay for maintenance of it. Reluctantly, nostalgically, we took the pieces we particularly loved from the site and republished them on our own blogs. We pulled the plug. It was the end of an era.

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Hi, I’m the sort-of fake, “new” Sexy Feminist!

Or was it?

When we declined to renew the domain, we noticed very soon afterwards that someone else had snatched it up. We worried slightly, because our names were associated with Sexy Feminist, and we worried some jerk would do something unseemly there. On a whim a few months ago, I decided to check in on SexyFeminist.com.

What I saw truly shocked me: Our words, our logo, our art, and even our bio with our photo. They were all back up in a slightly schlockier layout — whoever did this didn’t have our custom design elements. A few extra tweaks were slightly off, like “our” new tagline, “Making feminism sexy.” (That was never the intention of the name, though I promise you many people took it that way, and some of them weren’t thrilled by it. Neither were we.) Hilariously, the site now also has a copyright line at the bottom of the page.

My partner, Jesse, is a web developer, so he quickly did that thing that programmers do where they press some quick combination of buttons on the computer and it does something magical. It showed him the registration information for the domain. It had an email attached and everything. Heather and I wrote this individual an official “cease and desist” email demanding he take the content down. No response. We wrote to the domain administrator, who told us (with disinterest and vague condescension) that there was nothing the company could do about it. (I doubt that’s technically true. They just don’t wish to.) It seems the only option left is for us to sue, something for which we have neither the time nor the resources.

I called this a “cautionary tale,” but I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done to prevent this. I’m writing this partially because it’s a weird story about things that happen online, and partially so the Internet at least has a record of what’s going on. Someone stole our website, and there is nothing we can do.

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8 comments

  1. Interesting there is no where on the website where you can make comments or I would have questioned their ownership with you. At least I didn’t find one. What do they have to gain by doing this? If your name is still on it what’s in it for the thieves?

  2. I recommend reaching out to the website host and possibly even submitting a DMCA takedown notice: http://www.dmca.com/FAQ/What-is-a-DMCA-Takedown. It’s a bit of a PITA, but one thing that it will do is (assuming it’s a legitimate host that cares about its business and its relationship with its ISP) send the host notice that they have a client that’s serving up plagiarized content.

    Based on a couple of quick searches, the site is either hosted by Fran Tech Solutions (now BuyVM http://buyvm.net/) or (based on the nameservers associated with the domain) 3mhoster.com. Might be worth reaching out to them and seeing where you need to submit the takedown notice.

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