Your website is not safe on GoDaddy

My frustration at GoDaddy has gone to a whole other level this week.

I used to be a loyal GoDaddy customer from day 1.  I hosted over a hundred websites, including 3 dedicated and 2 virtual servers, had all my domains through there all purchases through my reseller account which was also doing very well.  Needless to say I feel I am a pretty reliable source to be giving a GoDaddy review.

Over the last 2 years, my loyalty to GoDaddy has been steadily dwindling.  It wasn’t the customer support that was steadily getting worse, or the constant mistakes in billing….it wasn’t even the malware attacks that prayed on server vulnerabilities, infecting over 87 of my wordpress sites that they stubbornly insisted to the bitter end, wasn’t their fault.

But the nail in the coffin for me, was finding out that GoDaddy does not enforce their own terms to protect our servers, and that anyone with an email has the power to take your server down.

Scary right?  Its the truth and here is what happened.

Recently one of our Dedicated Servers was suspended because of a Copyright Complaint.  No notice, no warning…nothing.  One minute its up and the next its down.

There is no way to contact the Copyright department by phone.  You can only contact them through email.   And they are the only one with the power to restore your server.   You are supposed to receive an email notifying you as to why the server was taken down but since most of us with dedicated servers also host our emails on the server, that did not happen in our case.

So we had to send them a request by email to find out why our server was suspended and they took their sweet time responding.   Nearly 5 hours later we got an email with a complaint that was attached from who claimed an image we had on the site was theirs and they swore under penalty of perjury to that fact.  They provided a link of the image on their own site, and then one that showed it on our site.  That was it.

Our first issue was to get the server restored.  And in order for us to do that we had to follow this list of things which included swearing under penalty of perjury that we would remove the image immediately.  I found that interesting considering you can’t remove the image when the server is down.  We responded with the things they asked us for, and told them we would remove the image as soon as they put the server back up.  But we kept getting rejected with an auto response referring us to the terms and instructions.  I just continued to submit the same response and the 4th time it was accepted.  FINALLY, After 12 hours of being down and waiting for responses,  we were told we would be restored.  But it didn’t happen and when we called to see why, we found out they went home and we would have to wait until the next morning!

Eventually they got the server back up.  Total down time, 20 hours, just long enough to lose traffic from a breaking news story linked to on drudge, affect the sites ranking and lose advertisers.

I decided to now look into this situation that caused all this which was the copyright violation claim.  Imagine my surprise when I searched the image in question on, to find out that the image was in fact owned by IStock photo.  Further research showed we had a license for it.

So why was filing complaints about images they don’t own?  And how was this claim validated by GoDaddy?  Can anyone claim copyright infringement and just take down a website?  Does GoDaddy just yank your website, no questions asked?  It seems so, how else could this have happened when clearly the accuser did not own the image and could not have provided proof of such.

SO the questions is, does GoDaddy just automatically suspend service when they get complaints and then sort out the details later?  Because that seemed to me like a very dangerous power to give to someone who wants to take a site down.  There had to be something that prevents false claims or malicious intent.

I called an talked to a manager named Chris to ask this very question.  Chris assured me that although they wont make the decision who is right and who is wrong when the complaints are received, they do make them follow a strict complaint submission protocol and will verify the complaint before they suspend.  They admit they take action swiftly but they do not just suspend all sites that get complaints arbitrarily.

I checked out the rules for submitting a copyright complaint.  To my surprise, the complaint that Desintation360 provided did not provide the necessary information to have a valid complaint according to the terms of GoDaddy.

So how was that claim aloud to pass as valid?  Can anyone just lie and say we stole their image and take our server down?

But even more surprising is that they do NOT ask you to provide proof of some kind of documentation of the actual copyright when making a complain.   Which means if someone has malicious intent, all they have to do is swear that they believe you have violated their copyright (even if no such copyright exists)  by using something of theirs on your website, and GoDaddy will suspend the website.  No questions asked.

I contacted ISTOCK who immediately called me, concerned and provided us with proof for GoDaddy, that we were within our rights to use that image.  My goal was to not only show GoDaddy the claim was not valid but to show we had the right to put the image back up.

I immediately emailed that to GoDaddy the license and letter from ISTOCK, along with several requests for a manager to review this situation.   I was very concerned that our server was not safe, and wanted to know why the complaint was allowed to be escalated to server suspension and how they thwart malicious intent, if they are not asking for any kind of proof.  Chris the manager said they do look into these things first.  But clearly that didn’t happen here.  So what happened?

I expected someone to email me back.  But we got nothing but automated responses containing instructions on how to get our server back up which proved they were clearly not even reading our emails considering the site had already been back up for 2 days.

When I finally did get a response from someone named Michelle, she asked me why the image was still up when we promised to remove it.  That concerned me again considering it wasn’t up and hadn’t been for 2 days.  But even worse was that we had provided our license for the image and should have been able to put it back up anyway.  SO no one was even looking at our emails and documentation. GoDaddy didn’t care that we were wrongly accused.

Hey wait, aren’t they supposed to be on our side?

After providing her with a link to the images 404, and again asking how we can document with GoDaddy that this claim was not valid and did not comply to their terms and asking to be allowed to republish the image, she responded asking  us file a counter claim

So we did.  She responded to tell us that the server would need to be suspended until the court date.

Wait….court date?  What court date?  I thought we were just providing you with information about why the complaint was not valid so we could put the image back up and not get in trouble for it.  Apparently there is NO way to do this.  There is no way to disprove a bogus claims with GoDaddy and NO way to hold someone accountable for false claims under penalty of perjury without taking them to court.  And the best part is that godaddy supports you through this process by taking your server down until it is resolved, something that is not mentioned in their terms.

In the end, we never got a call or email responding to our concerns, nothing assuring us it wouldn’t happen again, nothing explaining the situation, nothing acknowledging the proof we had the rights to the image, nothing assuring us that they do look into claims before yanking servers and sites.  Just Nothing.

Oh and I emailed Destination360 several times to tell them about their mistake and how it affected our website.  Guess what I got from them?  Yep.  Nothing.

So what does all this mean to you? It means your GoDaddy server and website is vulnerable.  And until GoDaddy decides to listen to its customers and better protect them, this is not going to change anytime soon.

I certainly don’t intend in staying around to find out.

19 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    Yea I was worried about things like this with them :/ Who do you host with now? Do you think Amazon EC2 is safe from this type of thing? It’s not like my site is even controversial… I’m a graphic designer so my site is my portfolio and I do have copy written images up there but its for shows I worked on… It would really suck if some little legal weasel saw it and reported it before they got in touch with me to find out… Well I am actually the guy that made your title and I am using it to show new clientele for new work… Needless to say, I am really getting sick of protocol… What happened to common sense…

    • BOSS Hawaii
      BOSS Hawaii says:

      Haha see this is a great example. I contacted the person whose graphic I thought it was and asked to use it but you are saying it is yours? Now see how mistakes can happen and if you wanted to you could send me a take down. So is it ok I am using it lol?

      I use Hostgator now but you are really not safe on any company who hosts large amounts of servers. The only way you are safe is if you find a local company who you deal with direct, a place in your area that has their own servers who you can pick up a phone and talk to or drive to their office. Someone who doesn’t have so many clients that they have the time to call you and let you know they received a notice and allow you to handle it before just taking it down. But unfortunately this is usually a lot more expensive. In my area where bandwidth is expensive, it isn’t at all affordable. But I cant tell you that Hotsgator is amazing and I have never had any issues with them but then again, I haven’t had any issues warranting a takedown notice since I have been with them.

      • Ben
        Ben says:

        No its not mine haha… I was just using that as an example… Its funny that those sites get so up in arms over this stuff yet they were not the one that even created the art to begin with… Thanks for the info 🙂

  2. matthew
    matthew says:

    I had a site on godaddy’s delux server that cost me 10k to build, they deleted all my files on a whim, and theres nothing I can do to get them back.

  3. KP
    KP says:

    Yes, get out of Go Daddy asap! They did the same to me. The suspended my hosting with no notice or loyalty to me as a longtime customer. I was shut out of all of my websites for 1.5 years! GD already had my money for hosting, as I paid for 5 years. I was never able to speak to the Copyright department. When the finally answered my email, they suggested that I open an new hosting account, which would cost me more money, and transfer the domains to the new account. They never helped me beyond that. I had to have my lawyer deal with it – again costing me more money. Also, since my entire account was suspended there was no way to get in to transfer the domains to a new account. When I finally was allowed to get into my account (1.5 years later), I got the hell out of Go Daddy.

  4. Mike Smith
    Mike Smith says:

    I, too have had the same issue with this malicious company Godaddy. On the 25th of this month, June 2012 they took my site down after they received the same complaint of a copyright violation from the same company They simply emailed Godaddy and said we stole one of the photos from their site. We did not steal anything, as the photo was licensed by Istock. Godaddy never contacted us and just immediately took our site and hosting down. After they did they emailed us. And by violating our contract with them, Godaddy, they ruined our online business.

    I will look into filing a lawsuit against Godaddy and against for libelous and false claims.

    Godaddy must actually believe they are too big to fail…they are wrong. Once a company reaches success, like GM and thousands of other companies, they treat their customers like dumb ignorant cash-cows.

    • BOSS Hawaii
      BOSS Hawaii says:

      Email me and I can give you the name of the manager at ISTOCK who has been dealing with Destination360 already about this issue. ISTOCK is NOT happy as it harasses their customers and I am sure they will be concerned to hear this is still occurring. I will be sure to email my contact there and let her know.

      You have a valid reason to pursue legal action as in order for them to take down your server, they have to swear under penalty of perjury and since they have done it more than once and have already been warned about it, it is not longer something they can claim is an oversight. I am happy to provide you with details of our situation for your court case if it helps.

  5. Marla
    Marla says: had our site removed for using an image of a windmill we had a legal license from istock to use! It was a huge problem for us and took us nearly a week to resolve. Worse yet, we also could not put the image back up as godaddy did not seem to care that we had a license, and said they would take our site down if we put the image up. So we paid for a license we can’t use. Your site is about godaddy, but it seems to me the real problem is istock! In other words, if you buy an istock license you are at risk from a company who has decided they own images that they don’t and will have your site taken down? Your article is a year old, it is unacceptable that istock has not fixed this issue. They need to take action against Destination360. Suspend their account!

    I don’t understand what Destinantion360 has to gain by doing this? Do they really think that they own these images??

  6. Gerry Mowrey
    Gerry Mowrey says:

    Boss . . .
    Love your site, good stuff and I actually enjoy reading it. Read the deal on Godaddy, timely for me as we are about to take on another web site that is currently with them. Never have been a fan.

    Hosting – just food for thought – I’ve been with ProHosting for a number of years, never had a problem, good folks, up 99% of the time, and always around to help.

    Thanks for you site and insights,
    Gerry . . .

  7. Razan
    Razan says:

    Thanks for this, I was about to sign up with Godaddy and after reading this, I’m definitely not going through them for my website.
    Do you have other providers that you can recommend

    • BOSS Hawaii
      BOSS Hawaii says:

      It depends on what kind of hosting you need. But I personally love Hostgator. They are affordable, reliable and have excellent customer support and they will even move your websites for free. The only drawback is the PHP limits. If your website will require higher PHP limits then go to Media Temple. I have heard good things about Blu Host however I have never personally tried them.

  8. J Bowman
    J Bowman says:

    The reason crap like this happens is that people aren’t willing to sue over it. GoDaddy is a big company now, and big company is almost always synonymous with farking over the average joe. Sue them for breach of contract and sue Destination360 for all losses incurred by the perjury, since they are both liable _if_ you’re willing to stand up to them, but it sure sounds like you would rather take it and rant about it than force others to own up and fix their mistakes. Ranting online is pretty much completely useless when it comes to actually changing a company’s behavior, they just don’t care.

    • BOSS Hawaii
      BOSS Hawaii says:

      You are right but it was not my site or server. It was my client’s and they are considering legal action I believe. I do know that since I wrote this article and the others about godaddy, tweeted and complained on several review sites that my reseller checks suddenly stopped after several years of never having issues. They claim my address was deleted then they had discrepancies in commissions which it has taken now 2 months of research and they still have not corrected it.

      It is clear this company does what it wants and knows it gets away with it. And most small businesses do not have the money to sue them which is why they get away with it. I really don’t know what the answer to this problem is. 🙁

  9. that one guy
    that one guy says:

    maybe if you keep your cms’s up to date you wouldent have to worry about your 87 websites being infected/hacked dumb people doing dumb reviews make for a stupid world congrats on helping bringing down the intelligence level of the world.

    • BOSS Hawaii
      BOSS Hawaii says:

      Well thank you for that advice. I will be sure and try to keep our “cms’s” up to date, because that isn’t something that occurred to us before. And I will sure try to be smarter, gosh knows there are already enough dumb people in this world, I certainly “wouldent” want to contribute to bringing down the intelligence level of the world. #sarcasmftw #trollsneedlovetoo #punctuation101


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