Quantcast

Should SEO, Web Hosting Firm Be Held Responsible For Counterfeit Site?

Bright Builders responsible for damages done by a counterfeit golf club website.

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:
[ Search]

Precedence setting, or lone case? I’m sure SEO experts who have discovered this case are interested to see what becomes of it. A South Carolina judge has found the SEO Firm, Bright Builders Inc., responsible for damages done by a counterfeit golf club site.

The judge ruled Bright Builders was guilty of contributory trademark infringement, and other charges, due to them providing marketing and web hosting services. The judge ordered Bright Builders to pay $770,050 in statutory damages, while the site’s owner, Christopher Prince paid $28,250.

Do you agree with the difference between damages owed? Let us know.

Cleveland Golf was the company who filed the suit, and originally only targeted Prince. When Cleveland’s lawyers discovered of Bright Builder’s services, they decided to file suit against them as well. The argument presented by Cleveland’s lawyers is Bright Builders was knowingly aware of the scam, and continued their services.

Christopher Finnerty, one of the lawyers for Cleveland Golf said this of the ruling, “For Internet Intermediaries like SEOs and web hosts, this should be a cautionary warning” he continues, “The jury found that web hosts and SEO’s cannot rely solely on third parties to police their web sites and provide actual notice of counterfeit sales from the brand owners. Even prior to notification from a third party, Internet intermediaries must be proactive to stop infringing sales when they knew or should have known that these illegal sales were occurring through one of the web sites they host.

Finnerty also stated how this was the first time a service provider was found liable for infringement, without being notified prior to the lawsuit. Being the first of its kind, it brings about the question of whether or not this is a precedence setting case.

I’m not totally surprised the judge found Bright Builders guilty of contributing to trademark infringement. Considering we have no idea of the knowledge the judge has or developed during the case in terms of web hosting, or SEO practices. What I find odd is the discrepancy between the amount of money responsible between Prince, and Bright Builders. How could they be responsible for so much more than the actual owner of the site?

Bright Builders has never had a sterling reputation. If you research them on BBB, you’ll find a rating of ‘C-’. 26 complaints have been filed against them. If you search for them on Google, one of the top links will direct to a website called scam.com.

The case certainly leaves a worrisome feeling for SEO experts, and firms. It has the potential to make experts more aware of the content they’re working with. It also provides a debate among those interested.

Should SEO and hosting services be responsible for the tools they’re providing counterfeit sites? If they have no knowledge of the site being counterfeit, is there a defense to be found? Considering how much a SEO service needs to know in order to be successful, it presents a rousing debate.

Let us know how you feel about this case in the comments.

EDIT: To clarify, the verdict was found by a jury panel and the judgement was handed down by the South Carolina Judge.

UPDATE: Stephen Gingrich, Vice President of Global Legal Enforcement and HR for Cleveland® Golf/Srixon said this in a press release, “While individuals who sell counterfeits pose major problems for the manufacturer, companies like Bright Builders who can amplify the impact and scope of this problem are even more dangerous” he continues, “Counterfeiting has existed for thousands of years but has been a localized issue. The Internet, ease of global shipping and payments, combined with SEO’s and web hosts injecting steroids into the situation has brought the issue into every consumer’s living room.

Should SEO, Web Hosting Firm Be Held Responsible For Counterfeit Site?
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • http://www.dazzum.com Michael Allen

    Am I to understand that this article means that Bright Builders hosted a counterfeit golf site and did nothing about it? I’m not sure I follow. Did they know about the site? Did they know it was counterfeit? If they didn’t know then how can they be liable? Someone please explain this because it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ John Vinson

      It has been a bit wishy-washy in terms of what has been reported from the court proceedings. The lawyer I mentioned in the article stated that hosts and SEO firms have an obligation to bring down sites when they know, or are “supposed” to have known of counterfeit activities.

      It was the “supposed to” aspect of the reply that caught my attention. When should a host know or not know of the activities, and can you prove of their knowledge one way or another depending on what services they provide their client? For example, if you help with SEO, would you have obtained enough knowledge of your client to know whether or not they are conducting illegal activities. Even if your client didn’t directly come out and tell you so.

      What I took from the court proceedings is the judge found Bright Builders should have known of the activities taking places. Whether or not they 100% knew of their client’s activities is still up in the air. Hence, my question at the end of the article.

    • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

      Bright Builders apparently both hosted and did SEO for copycatclubs.com

      How could they miss it?

      Copy Cat Clubs, selling counterfeit clubs, was brazen about it.

      Besides, on ripoffreport.com there are 28 complaints about that web-host Seo- marketing company.

      • Beamer

        How could they miss what? They sold counterfeit golf clubs and plainly said so in their domain name. The fault lies with the fraudulent buyer, who “should have known” the clubs were not authentic. The buyer “knowingly” bought counterfeit clubs, as stated by virtue of the domain name itself.

        So the buyer gets the copied clubs and decides he was swindled. When actually the buyer tried to get the clubs for free and won. Did the buyer return the clubs? Maybe, maybe not. If not, he/she/they got a free set of clubs and off to the golf course they go.

        I say the fraud was committed by the buyer who KNEW the clubs were not authentic, but saw a way to make a fast buck and won.

        Also, think of this. In a court of law, you are to be judged by a jury of your peers. The jury should have been made up of SEO consultants, website builders and web host providers. Not made up of people who have no inkling about these services and have no freaking idea what any of this is about. The jury was made up of the buyer’s peers who most probably don’t even know how to turn a computer on.

        I’m not a lawyer, but feel I could have successfully argued this case in court and won with my limited knowledge of courtroom lawyer tricks.

        This case should be appealed and the real culprit, the buyer, should be made to pay all damages. The customer is NOT always right! Judge and jury were as wrong as two left feet.

        Hear ye, hear ye, this court is now in session. Judge Beamer presiding. Prosecution and defense may now present their witnesses.

  • Beamer

    How is a hosting company to know the inner workings of a business site they host?

    Let’s say I run a hosting company. I’m hosting a business owner’s site that does carpet cleaning. A potential customer finds the site through a search and contracts with the carpet cleaner to clean carpets, etc. The carpet cleaner robs the home owner of precious jewels for which the carpet cleaner goes to jail, gets fined and so on. Can the home owner sue my hosting company because I host the carpet cleaner’s site and my hosting company should have known the carpet cleaner was a thief?

    According to the judge’s ruling, the home owner can sue the hosting company, the search engine, the carpet cleaner’s wife, parents and siblings because they “should have known” he was a thief.

    How about throwing the ball back in the judge’s court and sue him for the murderers and rapists he let go to continue their crimes against society? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

      In the case of CopyCatClubs.com the name was a good clue.
      When an SEO does any on-page work, he/she knows the words on the page. And, the words on the page wewre “Brazen” in their promotion of counterfeit golf clubs.

      BrightBuilder has plenty of complaints on both scam.com and ripoffreport.com, both as an SEO and as a Web-host, as well as a bunch of other marketing activities.

      The phrase “should have known,” was used instead of the more blunt – “complicit unless you are too stupid be able to feed yourself, or run a company.”

      • b clark

        Bright Builders helped the guy develop and market a website selling legitimate golf clubs are far as they knew. Bright Builders technology allowed its customers to make changes to their websites and add domain names at any time. Probably no one at Bright Builders ever saw the domain name nor the brazen messages because he added them after they finished working with him. How were they supposed to know?

        Bright Builders didn’t do any SEO work for Prince and ironically probably the only people who ever saw this site were Prince and Cleveland Golf who was actively scouring the web looking for infringements – the only club he ever sold on his site was to Cleveland Golf.

        So a web company is supposed to use esp to ensure that none of its customers ever do something they shouldn’t?

        Bright Builders has a e-signed user agreement from Prince that he would not do what he did. An area where Bright Builders failed was not having established, documented training procedures for it’s employees to identify and handle cases of trademark or copyright infringement. If you are a hosting company make sure you get these in place immediately!

        • b clark

          I should also mention that one of the things misreported on the story is it was not the judge that made these decisions. It was a trail by jury and the jury determined the penalties.

          • b clark

            Again when I say this story – I don’t mean this particular article, but the source reports that this was based on.

  • http://www.hopebuildssuccess.com Ed Rude

    The core question was should Bright Builders have reasonably suspected that copycatclubs.com was selling counterfeit goods.

    Well, Duh! The lead counsel for the Plaintiff was quoted as saying that usually counterfeiting of goods on websites are not so brazen.

    To some extent, website hosts and those who provide SEO, have a responsibiliyt similar to a rentor’s – You do not have to investigate every one that rents space from you, but when someone posts their website as “copy cat clubs” and sells golf clubs, it does not take a genius to figure out the golf clubs might be counterfeit.

    Just as a rentor has every right to suspect and responsibilty to investigate if a renter puts a sign on his household apartment that reads. “get your Coke and Methane here.”

    Copy Cat Clubs dot com, from the name alone, made sure everyone knew what they were selling – and it was indeed copy-cat clubs, in violation of other people’s rights.

    Any SEO would know what is on a web-page, and any hosting company would know the URL of a website it hosts. How could Bright Builders miss it?

    This case will probably do nothing restrictive for honest SEO’s and honest Webhosting companies who do the least amount of “due dillegence” necessary to do their jobs.

    • http://www.ozeworks.com ozeworks

      See the site http://www.finnegan.com/RogerClevelandGolfCoIncvPricesic/

      They designed the site. Presumably they also did SEO. So this is not just about a hosting company. This is about a web site developer who is also the host. It is not even clear if the fact they hosted it was a real issue. The issue was they apparently knew what was going to be sold and still faciliated it occuring.

      So if someone fits out a store and the store is going to sell fake handbags can the shop fitter be sued?

      • Beamer

        I just read about the case from your link. It appears to me that when RC Golf should have stopped when the site said “your one stop shop for the best COPIED and ORIGINAL golf equipment on the internet.”

        How could RC Golf sue for for trademark infringement when the trademark belongs to Cleveland? Looks like Cleveland should have been the one suing for trademark infringement. If RC Golf is actually Cleveland branded golf clubs, why would they need to buy their own products from a counterfeit site?

        I think RC Golf didn’t do their due diligence and should have sought golf clubs from a reputable store. Not that copycatclubs dot com is not reputable. They stated on their site they sold copies of branded golf clubs. I say RC Golf should have known better and knew there was a big chance the clubs they were buying were not authentic.

        WHEW! what a mess. I feel for Bright Builders. I think all web hosts and registrars better take a look at this case. I mentioned Godaddy in an earlier post. Look at all the domains registered through them and the sites they host. They are ripe for the pickings. Imagine all the fraudulent sites they could be hosting they don’t know about.

        When thinking about it, let’s replace Bright Builders with the name Godaddy. I wonder how this case would have turned out then. Godaddy has BIG pockets and RC Golf would have lost their case. Godaddy could have argued: “We host and register millions of sites. There is NO WAY we could know what sites are fraudulent and which ones are not. If we go by the domain names registered, we could get charged with violating someone’s right to name a domain whatever they want.” Things can get ugly.

      • Denise

        Bright Builders provide templates for the user to build their own site. They do not build websites.
        Just from the name of the site copy-cat clubs should tell anyone they are a reproduction. If someone buys an item from them and were too dense to realize it wasn’t the real thing then that’s their problem. Did the company have a return policy? If they did then this is the problem of the buyer. Do you really think they’re the only ones selling reproductions on the Internet? China is big on making reproductions. I could send them an item to have it made for a fraction of the cost. The hosting company should not have been held responsible. This is just going to open the doors for more lawsuits for items being sold on the Internet.

    • b clark

      I used to work for Bright Builders years ago and have kept in touch with the owner.

      Bright Builders did not design or build the site – the article was wrong. Bright Builders provides tools for customers to build their own websites. Bright Builders did not know that the customer was doing something illegal – he made those decisions himself after Bright Builders finished their consulting with him. (They did help him to set up a site to sell golf clubs – he added the copied ones himself later.)

      The guy lied and said that Bright Builders had told him to do it. Unfortunately he changed his story from the deposition or whatever it was called where he said Bright Builders didn’t know anything about it so Bright Builders didn’t expect him to say the opposite thing during trial and did not have the employee who he said told him that there at the trail to testify against it.

      The domain name was done automatically. Prince registered 3 domain names for his website. No one at Bright Builders would have even seen the copycatclubs.com domain name.

      Really what it came down to is that Bright Builders was a small company of less than 10 people barely hanging on from the recession and couldn’t afford to defend the case properly. They had a dishonest client (Prince) who decided to do something illegal without their knowledge. The jury decided that Bright Builders is 30 times more liable for Prince’s actions than Prince is. So now they are out of business. Bright Builders never had any money to sue for in the first place, but Cleveland Golf got their precedence.

      If someone rents a building from you and does something illegal in it should you be 30 times more liable than the renter?

      • http://www.webpronews.com/ John Vinson

        Thanks for the insight. Though I didn’t state in the article that Bright Builders built or designed the site. Simply that they hosted the site, and provided some SEO services. This according to reports from the court proceedings.

        As a former employee, could you comment on all of the complaints from the BBB the company has accrued throughout the years?

        I do agree with you that it’s a head scratcher concerning the discrepancy between money owed from the owner of the site and Bright Builders.

        • b clark

          Sure. Bright Builders was actually a wholesaler. They sold nothing directly to the public. Unfortunately many of their resellers did unscrupulous things and often did not give refunds when they should have – Bright Builders couldn’t give refunds for money the didn’t have (Bright Builder’s resellers would mark the products & services up between 1000% – 1500%. So for example the $10,000 cited in this case Bright Builders probably got $600. The only way Bright Builders stayed in business was the ongoing hosting fees for the sites.) But the customers would talk to the salesmen once and Bright Builders from then on and get confused about who they purchased from and usually report Bright Builders to the BBB.

          When I worked there I was directly involved with trying to make sure the resellers were representing the product accurately and we would very often pressure the resellers to give refunds as much as they would allow us to in cases where we thought it was warranted, but it was an uphill battle.

          Should they have done business with those resellers – probably not. But if not those resellers were just selling inferior products from Bright Builders competitors.

          Bright Builders actually kept an A rating for a long time when I was working there, but eventually it got ugly. They had actually already been out of that business for a couple of years already and had quit worrying about the BBB, etc.

          • b clark

            I should clarify it wasn’t your article that stated Bright Builders created the site – it was the one that ozeworks linked to.

          • Beamer

            I can certainly sympathize with Bright Builders. I know all too well the problems that can arise from “resellers” and is why I stopped using them in my own business. They can ruin everything you have worked hard for AND get away with it! I can see where BB was at the mercy of resellers. Believe me, I know. I am currently in a quandary due to a reseller’s misrepresentation of a product, that I had NO IDEA he was doing for the one month working with him. My heart literally sank when I found out and immediately terminated any association with him. The con man, of course, gets away with it. Recently, I found out he is STILL perpetrating his con and sadly people are falling for it. Going through this myself, I say BB is not liable and the judge was wrong.

            As for the domain name Copy Cat Clubs dot com, doesn’t this say that the clubs are in fact copies? In this perspective, where is the lie? It appears they didn’t hide the fact that their clubs were not authentic. The domain name says so. Shouldn’t the domain registrar be held liable as well? If Godaddy (for instance) is the registrar, would they not be culpable and complicit in this? Where will it end? The judge is wrong.

        • b clark

          As far as the head scratcher on the discrepancy I can tell you what BB’s owner suspects – that Prince essentially got “paid off” to blame Bright Builders which was different than what Prince said in his deposition. Obviously that’s nothing more than a suspicion.

          Also interesting, from what I understand the prosecution’s approach was pretty similar to your question – Bright Builders has a bad reputation so they must be guilty. (I’ve only spoken to the owner for about 15 minutes since the trial so I don’t have a complete understanding.)

  • John B

    I live on the Carolina border, and I am very disturbed by how little the governing and regulatory bodies and representatives of these two states know. To the best of my ability to discern, they know there is “an innernet” running amok somewhere, there’s money in said innernet that needs to be taxed, and if you’re making money online it must be criminal. That seems to be about as deep as the knowlege gets.

    These are my neighbors I am speaking of here, so go lightly on the name-calling please.

    If you are complicit in a crime and that complicity is provable, you are going to go down if you are caught. The answer is “Yes”. If a hosting company knows about criminal activity and then knowingly helps the criminals in that activity, they need to be punished.

    As to the disparity, it may be in proportion to the criminals rather than to the crime. Punishments should sting a little. A $500 speeding ticket to most people is a huge burden, to a multimillionaire it is laughable.

  • http://www.cargenie.com.au Used cars

    I believe that any SEO firm should know their clients sites/products quite well before proceeding with any SEO work. It is reasonably obvious what Copy Cat Clubs was selling, even I knew that as soon as I saw their name. SEO firms should endeavour to only promote quality and socially and legally acceptable products or services.

  • http://bloketoys.co.uk/ Mens Sex Toys

    I have long believed that the service providers of any criminal enterprise should be targeted just as the criminal is targeted. But by this I mean hosting, payment processors and so on.
    It shouldn’t also apply to companies employed by them to work on their behalf.

    Basically, if a company is knowingly facilitating and assisting another to commit a crime they should face action too. But if it is not clear to a company providing a service then there should be no case!

    If someone asked you to get them masks, guns and a getaway car, it is reasonable to assume they are going to rob a bank. Therefore you are guilty of assisting in a crime.
    If a guy in a suit asks to borrow a pen and you discover he’s written fraudulent cheques, you are not responsible for assisting in a crime.

    But, I also believe that it is the responsibility of all involved to close down sites and/or warn companies before legal action is taken.

  • http://www.m3printing.com Barry Carr

    If a man walks into a gun shop wearing a shirt that says “people killer” would the person(s) that sold that customer the gun be held responsible if the customer walked outside and started killing people?

    I understand this is not an apple for apple comparison, but the point is people that directly commit intentional acts of crimes should be held responsible for their actions.

    It is not Bright Builders responsibility to investigate the copy cat golf club company and unless there is physical evidence i.e. emails or some kind of equivalent then Bright Builders should be left alone.

    I own an online printing company and we receive thousands of orders that are placed by our customers online. It is not our responsibility to proof read our customers artwork, let alone the fact that it would be next to impossible to do so. If one of our customers placed an order for a postcard and there was small Anti-Semitic verbiage or something else that was bad/illegal we would have no way of knowing and the job would more than likely be printed.

    Would/should my company also be held liable if our customer gets sued? Should the ink, paper and machinery companies be liable as well? Where does it stop?!

    • Beamer

      This is exactly my point as well. Where does it end?

  • kbbbb

    Should a person know when something running off their server is illegal? YES. I don’t care if this is the internet or bricks and mortar, if a landlord allowed counterfeit merchandise to be sold out of their property then they should be punished too.

    There is far too much hands washing in the US. I’m sick of it. The US spits out 28% of the worlds’ spam. That’s from botnets from idiots who get themselves infected by malware. If people were held responsible for their computers spitting out spam, then MAYBE the spam volume would start to go down.

    It’s a similar situation to this case. If you want to own internet property, if you want to own a computer and access the internet, if you want to sell internet real estate, then it is YOUR responsibility to ensure its contents doesn’t violate any laws. Period. And every nation in the world should operate under similar terms as we all share the one network.

  • http://howtogetridofacnespots.com Acne Spots

    I don’t think Bright Builders should be held responsible for the site’s owners scam. Once the site is done by an SEO company and they hand it over to the owner they have nothing to with it anymore. If they provide tools for a website, -SEO or building, they can’t control what they will be used for.

    Based upon this miss judgment by the judge (or the jury) anyone anywhere for anything could be held responsible for whatever they were involved with in the past, if someone edits the facts of the past to use it for fraud.

  • http://www.myhawaiionline.com R Y

    I think the key to this case is the fact that the “knowingly” developed a counterfeit website. They weren’t an innocent contributor, at least that’s how its presented. I think if they knowingly contributed their expertise to the site owner, then yes, they should also be held liable and since the site owner probably would not have been able to do it on his own (hence he was looking for them to develop the site), they are largely responsible for any damages caused.

  • http://www.primaryposition.com David Quaid

    It’s a very dangerous judgement. We never help a company promote a scam and work really hard to ensure that we are never involved/related to anything similar but this case sets a dangerous precedent: If the company and it’s promoters set out to fool/con/scam people – then surely providers are going to be subject to the same scam techniques.

    However, to knowingly help a scam like this is shocking and wrong.

  • http://www.DaytonSeoServices.com Carlos Scarpero

    So, according to this jury every web hosting company should be held liable, since there are viruses and spam and scams on every host. The host just cleans up what they can.

    Now if Bright Builder KNEW it was a scam and kept collecting fees anyway, then they should be held liable. Certainly not for more than the actual criminal though. 30 times in insane!

  • http://www.woodlandsadagency.com/ Woodlands Ad Agency

    Knowingly creating a site that is a scam and infringing on trademarks – yes, they should be liable as well. However, the hiring company should be more liable than the developer but then again, we don’t know the full story from this article.

  • http://azgrand.com John W. Abert

    I can only relate my own experiences with Bright Builders, and bad karma always comes back, so they got what they deserved.

    In 2007 I got a call one day from someone supposedly working with Skip McGrath’s office. I tended to trust the source, because I have known about Skip for many years, and he is one of the most trusted names in marketing. However, I think that was a ploy. One thing led ot another, and we ended up signing up for the coaching program that apparently Nathan Bailey was running “in conjunction with” Skip McGrath. Now keep in mind here, that in afterthought, I don’t believe that Skip had anything to do with this coaching program, as he offers his own teaching programs, of which I own at least two, and they are nothing at all like this other program.

    Since then, I have seen Nathan Bailey’s name come up with a coaching program through Jim Cockrum, who really is “THE” most trusted name in marketing. All I can say to Jim is “What in the world were you thinking?”

    When I told them I wanted to be assured that I would make my money back within the period of the class (12 weeks) they assured me that I would make that and more. But six weeks into the class, we still hadn’t made our first dime from anything they had told us!

    When I asked them about a curriculum, they told me that they work with what we already know and “build upon it”, so they don’t offer a published curriculum. If anybody ever tells you that, you need to run like Hell. The first thing they wanted to do is sign us up for both Bright Builder’s web building program, along with a subscription to an eBay anaylitics tool. We had already been using several other web building programs, and had established web sites out that had been running for several years already, and backed with over 40 years of successful business experience and background…but that wasn’t good enough.

    They wanted to take us all the way back to day one, as though we were total newbies, and have us write goals, business plans, and other things that we already had in place. We already knew how to build web sites, and all we wanted was to learn more and make them better, which is what the original sales person said they would do.

    Instead, they assigned us as teachers, first, a coin shop operator who was doing anything but making a full time living on the web. In fact, his own web site went against everything I had learned in over seven years of previous marketing knowledge. I could tell he was doing nothing more than following “flip-chart” technology. When we complained, they assigned us someone else, even younger than the first guy, who did nothing bu insult the work we were trying to do. So then Nathan Bailey got involved, and tried to smooth things over, but I told him I wanted out of the program and to refund my money.

    He refunded only a small portion (about $1000) of what we had paid (which was nearly $7,000) and cancelled the Bright Builder (nearly $50/mo) plus the eBay analytics software subscription (another $20/mo) but that was all. He refused to refund the balance of what we had paid, and to this day, we are still out that money.

    We found the Bright Builder difficult to navigate, template choices were limited, instructions were poorly written, and the over-all cost of it to be totally out of proportion with the rest of the industry! They totally refused to work with us using any other web building software with which we were already familar. Also, on anyone’s “programmed” web builder software, you will NEVER have full control of html, to be able to optimize the pages as they should be. And to top it off, their offices were closed on evenings and weekends, which is when we were available to do the web work! Every time we had problems, we had to wait until they were reasdy to get back to us to get questions answered!

    As a result, I filed a complaint on RipOffReport.com to alert anyone else of their tactics. Any reputable company woud have returned money to anyone who is not satisfied with their services, even if the time limit had expired. They don’t understand the basic rule of customer service, in that having one dissatisfied customer talking bad about them does more damage to their finances than the return of funds that were charged to them!

    I have seen no indication of their training being beneficial to anyone, except maybe one particular site that they kept telling me was a good example of their success. OK, so that’s one site. How many other students did they sign up who did not have that kind of success? The truth is in the numbers, and if only one site made a million dollars a year out of 60,000 students, then what does that tell you? Unfortunately, they will never divulge their numbers, because only about 5% of people ever do anything with what they purchase online.

    The best advice I can give people is to learn to build your own sites using standard web builders that you “own”, so that you have control over everything on them. Everything you need, and everything to learn is already out there on the web, available for free, if you just take the time to learn it and WORK at building your business. Anyone who makes wild claims about how much you will make, or offers to teach you with no published curriculum, is probably going to take your money and run. And we need to run those kind of businesses right off the web!

  • Oli

    Just a short question in relation to this. If a marketter has been found liable for the products of a customer he has been working for, does this set a prescident for the thousands of sites leading to torrents or streaming movies?

  • http://SelfHelpHotline.com Adam

    Of course not! If you start agreeing that the service provider is responsible for the content of the perpetrator, then you’re inviting the regulation of the industry through a 3rd party interest, which in our society is an invitation to federal intervention. This is a denial of free-trade enterprise.

  • Roy

    Ruling will most probably be reverse by a higher court if it can be appealed. I seriously doubt they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the SEO company knew about the illegal activities. It doesn’t matter if the domain name had the name “copy” in it. The illegal website could easily have had some sort of marketing agreement with the legitimate company and that’s no business for anybody else to know. Unless they had some “Hey Joe, This S..t is illegal so you know… I need your services” type of smoking gun email or similar evidence, this thing will be overturned. Now, if the domain was representing some obvious, illegal activity like, “suppppport terrrrrorists dot com”, “Sell cocccaine 2 kids dot com”, “rrrrape kkkids and wwwwomen dot come” or something very obvious, they have a strong case. Who the hell knows about golf clubs. Clubs are places to pickup chicks and bang them afterwards. Ain’t ‘em Bob?

    If the golf clubs company informed the SEO company of the illegal activities and they kept marketing, then the golf clubs company would have a strong case too.

  • http://www.specialassignment.info Ted

    The site owner is liable, not the web hosting service.

    Beware, copyright laws are being used to deny free speech and free press.

  • http://www.southernmostdiving.com Dave Wright

    I thank anyone or company that helps rip of the true owners should pay the complete loss that the real site has loss , and I thank it should go one better if a site let’s someone leaves bad input about a company they should have to pay for damages unless they offer the other party a chance state there comments and have them remove the bad statements or give the name and contact info when asked for it , or pay damages

  • http://www.shapirit.biz טכנאי מחשבים, תחזוקת מחשבים שוטפת ותחזוקה מונעת

    Did anyone visited the link “discover this case”?, I visited and the veredict is $2,750 for Christopher Price and $70,250 for Bright Builders, NOT as written in the article.

    I was not present at the court so I cannot know what lead the jury and the judge to be so harsh to Bright builders but maybe having an history of 26 complaints played against them.

    Two things I can tell 1: when I found that websites copied part of articles I wrote I gave them 72Hrs. to delete the content before action and 2: If someone asks me to install on their computer an illegal copy of software I always ask for legal ownership before doing it and be sure that I refused and lost several potential costumers, that’s a price I am willing to pay to keep the name of my business clean.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ John Vinson

      I noticed this difference too. However, every single reporting I found had the amounts of $770,050 and $28,250 listed. These were perhaps 3 or 4 sites which had the news posted before I did. I figured additional judgement was handed down after the verdict which wasn’t cited within the verdict form.

      If additional information is out there which points to the contrary, then I’ll gladly change the information.

      An official press release from Cleveland Golf states the amounts from the report are correct: http://www.worldgolf.com/newswire/browse/66657-CLEVELAND%C2%AE-GOLF-SECURES-VERDICT-AGAINST-COUNTERFEITER-AND-WEB-HOSTSEO-COMPANY

      • b clark

        I can clarify this. There will 11 trademark infringements. So if you times the lower number by 11 you get the bigger number – the bigger number was the award.

  • Peter Hutchison

    I do not see how a hosting only company can be expected to know what is on a website. If, however they do find out that illegal material is on there they could be liable from when they found out.

    SEOs on the other hand are very likely to find out what they are dealing with and when they do so they should act appropriately, probably by warning the client and stopping work.

    I do not know enough about the sentencing to comment In the UK I understand fines are fixed partly based on the ability to pay so the lower fine may be a very much more severe penalty.

  • http://signature.eu.com/we-promote/search-engine-marketing/ Kent SEO Company

    From reading the interesting comments in this post, this is a hot potato that clearly raises more questions than answers. One things for sure – if you we’re getting away with black-hat SEO before, it’s game over for you. Since March 1st the ASA are policing websites and social media with the same scrutiny as they do print advertising. The hosting issue should be covered in the hosting companies terms & conditions surely?

  • Brian

    Interesting article. This sentence, “Considering we have no idea of the knowledge the judge has or developed during the case in terms of web hosting, or SEO practices.” is a sentence fragment. Seems it should be connected to the previous sentence but even that doesn’t make much sense.

  • http://prisoninmatepenpal.com Wayne Ouellette

    If the web hosting provider was aware of the illegal activity on their servers, then yes they are equally liable.

    If they were not aware, then NO. Its really a simple issue.

    Webhosts are like landlords of a big complex.

    If someone is dealing drugs from a rental and the landlord doesnt know, then they are innocent. If they did know and did nothing about it, then they are liable for the illegal activity as much as the one selling.

    Webhosts are just electronic landlords.

  • http://www.bargainhomeuk.com hugh williams

    I think its down to owner of the site. There are so many SEO site / firms it would be impossible to police it but i could tell they where fake from the url of the site

  • Watermelon

    Well, if I had my druthers and I were Bright Builders, I’d appeal on the basis of due process. I beleive there is an obligation to infringement notification procedures. But then again, Bright Builders seems to have been standing in the shade without all their lightbulbs lit!

  • http://www.hostingonweb.com/ Marty Hoges

    If your provide proper redirection using google webmaster tools and inform goggle that you transfer you web host then i think its not affect on your performance on Google SERP. Also some professional website hostingcompanies offers two months free hosting services for attract to whom change their web host

  • http://www.ccfconsult.com Byron

    All of this talk about precedence … obviously no one did their home work.

    First, the supreme court has already ruled that hosting companies are not responsible for content the host, just like a storage unit owner cannot be held responsible for what is stored by the renter of that space.

    Second, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (I think this is the correct name) says that if a hosting company is notified of copyright infringement their only obligation is to notify the site owner. If the site owner decides to keep the material up then they assume full liability. This becomes a civil matter and the hosting company is left out of the mix.

    Third, web developers and SEOs can be liable if they knowingly create sites and use copy righted or trademarked material. But you do have to handel the material.

    My guess is that much of this gets kicked upon appeal. And do not be surprised if GoDaddy and other large companies are submittng their own brief to the appelate courts.

  • http://buycheapgolf.com.ansmycheapgolf.com buster

    I thought I bought a set of mizuno mp 63 irons 2011 model that they had advertised. Bought them for $389.00 when they came to me from China and past US Customs and even came US POSTAL MAIL they were a fake copy cat set of mizuno mp 63 irons. Not even a good copy cat club. I still have all the information that I am taking to the US CUSTOMS DEPT TOMORROW. Or better yet what should I do.

  • http://www.digact.com Alex O’Connor

    Clear warning there for all involved in the SEO business.