While cleaning out my Hushmail account (Iâ€™m going to my own .com address for the foreseeable future), I came across an e-mail I had sent to the Webmaster of a particular site requesting that he remove my unauthorized ad from a site. Curious about things, I re-checked that site and some of his other sites.
The point of this post is really simple: good or bad, karma will find you. The story concerns adult sites that steal content from escorts advertising online.
a little background on the matter
There are numerous escort “advertising” sites that steal escortâ€™s ads from legitimate advertising sites. This fluffs up the content level of the illegal site in an attempt to look more appealing to pay to advertise on (if youâ€™re an escort). I donâ€™t like this practice and would contact a site as soon as I discovered myself somewhere I didnâ€™t want to be. (Sometimes the sites brought me really great exposure for free, so I left the ads up.) Annoying, but not terrible. A lot of people have problems with the concept of copyrights on the Internet, not just adult Webmasters.
The sites that really get under my skin are the sites who take the escortâ€™s contact information and pictures from her site or ad (I watermarked the hell out of my website photos but my ad photos werenâ€™t marked), then sell memberships on their site in order for potential clients to access the information and/or extra pictures. Usually these sites charged $20 a month.
This is infuriating. Like most escorts, my contact information was free on my site and my legitimate ads. Like most escorts, I had a free picture gallery on my site. (Some escorts also have a paid-membership-only photo gallery.) These Webmasters see all this â€œfreeâ€ content lying around (never mind that it is legally copyrighted by the original creators of said content), take it and use it to make money for themselves. Iâ€™ve never heard of them offering any escort a kickback. I know I was never offered a chance to enjoy the proceeds they earned from the unauthorized use of my information and pictures.
Adding insult to injury, they never got my wording correct. They would change the wording to suit them and it was always poorly edited. Sometimes they would give out my phone number too.
I discovered how much I hated answering the phone just a couple months into escorting. So I removed my phone number from all ads and had it posted only on the Contact page of my site. It was mainly there for existing clients, but I still received more calls than I liked dealing with. Please note: this aversion to phone calls is very unusual for mid-range escorts. Just one of my quirks. (I still donâ€™t like doing business on the phone.)
When I discovered myself on an illegal site, Iâ€™d request to be removed by sending an e-mail. Iâ€™d remind them that I did not authorize my ad to be on their site. It always worked. Sometimes Iâ€™d make a public discussion board post as well because I would see other escorts on these sites, escorts that I knew didnâ€™t authorize their information to be on there either.
now that you have the background
A particular ring of sites came to my attention after I made a trip to St. Louis and discovered that I was getting phone calls referring to two Web sites Iâ€™d never heard of. I checked them out and they were terrible, junk sites with a patched-together profile of me, along with a blurb at the bottom of my ad â€œSee more photos of Amanda! Join today!â€ (The sites were run by the same people and were almost identical.)
I dispatched an e-mail as soon as I found an address on one of the crappy Web sites. Then another. I wasnâ€™t getting any responses. So I tracked down the Whois info of the site owner. There was a name, address and phone number. I first tried the site administrator e-mail and got nowhere. Then I made a phone call and talked to a surprised-sounding man. My ad was removed. (I was still getting phone calls from their damn ads and I was only a couple weeks away from retirement at this point.)
I did some Googling. They had simply moved my profile from their St. Louis sites to a Texas one. I started with the e-mails again. I made an angry public post about this site. I wanted to smear them so that they couldnâ€™t make any more money. Before I could get to the phone call stage, my ad was removed. I think it was the public board post that did the trick.
Since then, Iâ€™ve Googled variations of my advertising information and have watched the pages disappear. I donâ€™t believe anything is left except public board posts that Iâ€™ve made. But when I saw this e-mail sitting in my Sent folder, I couldnâ€™t resist checking those three sites to make sure my photos werenâ€™t being used under another name.
here comes the karma
The Texas site is still up and running but I couldnâ€™t find myself there. The two St. Louis sites that I was on are gone. In their place is a message that the sites were shut down due to a Federal court order.
After doing what checking I could, I can only assume that it was due to USC section 2257 being enforced. In other words, they got in trouble for either posting pictures of someone under 18 or because they did not have model releases (and proof of age) on file. Because their sites were almost completely populated with stolen photos, they could not have had a single model release on file. (The main site has several pages about USC 2257 so I can only assume they got slapped pretty hard with it.)
Almost a year ago USC 2257 started being used to shut down legitimate sites (like erotic story sites). I wanted to blog about the sudden crackdown but never finished my research. However, Iâ€™m very happy to see the law doing what it was intended to do. This doesnâ€™t mean that USC 2257 still isnâ€™t being used in ways that I donâ€™t agree with.
I have to wonder how the authorities became aware of this site. Was it an irate escort? A parent? A cyber-police officer? I couldnâ€™t find any news about the incident, however, Iâ€™m sure that the site owners are going to remember it well!
Iâ€™m dancing on their Web-grave.