The Dangers of Forum Owners Not Protecting Their Members

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Warrior Forum. It’s one of the largest internet marketing forums on the web and has been online since 1997. I signed up around 4 and a half years ago however I never posted there as I had a very negative attitude of the community. To me, it seemed like everyone was either a beginner or a more experienced marketer who was ripping off beginners.

As I started browsing the forums more, I realised that my view of the forum wasn’t right. Sure, there are a lot of beginners and a lot of the special offers that are posted (known as WSO’s) which don’t offer a lot of value, however there are thousands of fantastic people who are active there. Good experienced marketers who are trying to help out other marketers.

I think the mistake most beginners make is to spend too much time there. Too much posting on the forum and not enough time actually working on making money. I’ve made a point to only post there when I have a question or when I’ve completed a lot of work that day. That’s stopped me from becoming a member of The People`s Front of Judea (aka the PFJ)!!

Those of you who subscribe to this blog will know that I released a PDF version of my ebook ‘The Traits & Habits of Successful Bloggers‘ for free to newsletter subscribers a few days ago. I decided to announce it on Warrior Forum to increase exposure of this blog and the book and to say thank you to the members that have answered questions for me. The book has been well received.

Aweber sends me a quick email whenever someone joins my newsletter (I like to get regular updates of new subscribers when a list is new). Whilst I normally don’t do much work on Christmas day, I usually do a quick email check. Today I noticed that someone had signed up to my newsletter with the email address [email protected] As you would expect, this set off alarm bells.

I signed up to BestBlackHatForum.com and I found that they were offering my book as a direct download; completely bypassing the need to sign up to my newsletter. Not only that, they went to the hassle of removing all references to me and Warrior Forum and removed the links back to this blog. Scumbags! All of this to save them from signing up to my newsletter (they must really hate this blog!!!).

Scumbags!
Scumbags!

The forum actively encourages members to save the file and upload it at other places so that the file is not lost. This means that your file only has to be downloaded once in order for it to spread to other websites and be potentially downloaded thousands of times. Perhaps not a major concern with a product that has been released for free but most of the products listed in their ‘Freebies’ section are premium products that sell for over $100.

The whois for the domain is protected by the DomainsByProxy service so their host’s information is not publicly available. The service is used to protect people`s identity online and stop internet harassment etc. Ironically, the service also promotes that the fact that it can stop data mining. Funny how the owners of a forum which allows hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal downloads every day doesn’t want anyone stealing their private information.

I’ve filed a complaint with them so hopefully they will be supportive in the issue. I suspect this forum gets this type of thing every day though so I’m unsure as to how effective the legal route will be.

Dealing with Scammers

This was the first time that I’ve had a digital product stolen from me (to my knowledge). It’s frustrating to spend so much time working on a product only to see people try and get it for free. For what, so they didn’t have to sign up to my newsletter? It really highlights how lazy some people are as they could have just signed up, downloaded the file and unsubscribed. I suspect that’s too much of an inconvenience for them.

I have had to deal with people stealing my content many times in the past. Every article on my former blog Blogging Tips was published on Splogs (Spam Blogs). I realised early on that I was fighting a losing battle as it took me at least a few minutes to report an offending website to Google and every day more and more websites were being created that were stealing my content (most splogs are monetized using Google Adsense so one thing you can do is report them to Google to try and have their Google Adsense account banned). The best way round it was to add copyright notices inside content and link heavily within my articles so that it was clear to everyone where the original content was from.

Most content producers accept the fact that people will steal their content. Many people believe that having your content stolen is inevitable. I would agree, but I think that inaction can be dangerous, particularly if your product is expensive. That particular black hat forum lists plugins, themes and other digital products that sell for hundreds of dollars each. Perhaps these are people that would never buy your product anyway so you’ve not really lost anything hoever I’m positive that there are people who will purchase a product if they can’t get it illegally. Most of the popular products that are listed there (illegally) have hundreds of downloads so even if only a small percentage of those people would download your product, you’re still losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

It’s not a major concern for me at the moment though should I launch a premium digital product in 2013, I’ll take all the steps necessary to stop people from ripping me off. It’s a difficult thing to balance though as you don’t want to frustrate the people who did actually pay for your product.

Warning Others About This Problem

It’s always been in my nature to warn others about scammers so that other people don’t get ripped off. As such, I wrote a long detailed thread about the issue on Warrior Forum today to highlight the problem to other members. This, after all, is an issue that effects most members there. A quick check on the black hat forum showed close to 5 thousand Warrior Forum Special Offers that have been copied and illegally uploaded for others to download for free.

Unfortunately, the staff at Warrior Forum don’t share my enthusiasm for highlighting problems like this. A few minutes after I posted my thread, it was deleted.

Invalid Thread Message
Invalid Thread Message

I wasn’t shocked by this however I was a little disappointed. Thankfully, I’m a man who plans ahead and made a copy of it beforehand (which I normally do with long forum posts in case the browser crashes). Have a look at what I wrote to understand my view on the issue a little better.

————Start of My Message on Warrior Forum———————————-

A Warning to All Warrior Forum Members About BestBlackHatForum.com

Sorry to post this on Christmas day but I wanted to warn other Warrior Forum members about an issue that concerns all of you. Specifically those who are releasing digital products.

I posted my first WSO the other day. It’s a free ebook about successful bloggers that I am giving away to newsletter subscribers for free.

Unfortunately, the book has been shared at BestBlackHatForum.com. Not only did the scumbags directly link to the download file, they also removed all references to me, Warrior Forum and my blog (they replaced ‘The members of Warrior Forum have been really helpful to me’ with ‘The members of BestBlackHatForum have been really helpful to me’).

The email that was used to sign up was [email protected] I have contacted Aweber about the situation and asked them to ban the email address from all accounts.

Their domain is protected by DomainsByProxy. I have filed a claim with them and asked for their contact details and I will be looking at starting legal proceedings against them.

Is this a heavy handed response against someone stealing an ebook? In my opinion, no. I will be releasing many more digital products in 2013. Some of these will take me months to produce and I will be charging a fee for them. This kind of thing could potentially cost me tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales every year.

Whilst I am lucky in some respects that my file has been released for free to my newsletter subscribers, most of the so called ‘freebies’ on the forum are premium products. You may think I’m getting free exposure etc, but this isn’t the kind of exposure I want. The ebook is offered to my subscribers for free but it’s a premium product that is being sold on Amazon and other book stores for a fee. However, I suppose it’s actually a good thing that they didn’t sign up to my newsletter as I don’t want pirates on my list

How does this effect Warrior Forum Members?

This is a really big issue for those of us who want to release products on Warrior Forum because:

  • They are actively crawling this forum for products. This means that this has happened in the past and will happen again.
  • They are actively encouraging others to download the file and upload to other locations so that the file isn’t lost.

It’s worrying that the members of the forum are encouraged to upload and share other places. This means that all they need is one person to buy a product and even if you change the download location it could be downloaded by others thousands of times; whether your product is free, $10 or $100.

After searching their freebies second for a minute, I quickly found the following WSO’s are being offer there for free:

I searched for WarriorForum.com within the freebies forum room. The result was frightening – 189 pages. There are 25 threads listed per page which means that approximately 4,725 products have been stolen from WarriorForum members.

This is something that effects all of us. It’s going to cost those of us who release WSO’s thousands of dollars. As a result, this will hurt affiliates money. It could discourage other marketers from promoting good offers here altogether.

What’s bizarre is that the forum has it’s own special offers section where marketers can sell their products. Why would anyone try to sell something to a community where everyone rips other people off???

What can you do

To all of you who offer WSO’s, ebooks and other digital products, I encourage you to sign up to their forum (using a fake email!) and check whether your product has been downloaded. If it has, please visit DomainsByProxy and click on the ‘File a Claim’ button at the bottom of the page.

I am going to keep checking the forum on a regular basis and report any illegal files stolen from Warrior Members and other affiliate marketers. I encourage you all to do the same and share any other information with all of us as this will help us stop these idiots.

We need to work together to stop this forum (and others like it). I hope the owners of Warrior Forum can also help with this situation too as in the long term it’s going to do a lot of damage to Warrior Forum.

Thanks,
Kevin
————–End of My Message on Warrior Forum——————————–

Having a thread deleted is always frustrating, particularly when you only set out to warm others about a serious problem. You would think the owners of Warrior Forum would want members to be proactive about things like this. Sadly, it doesn’t seem they do.

I also think it’s pretty weak for forum moderators to delete threads and posts without even taking the time to explain why to members. I understand why they don’t do this with spammers and I know Warrior Forum is very popular and probably needs a lot of moderation; however posts from good members should be given the benefit of doubt. At the very least they deserve a quick message explaining their reasons for deleting it. On my forums I try not and heavily moderate members in this fashion as it’s destructive and can lead to good members leaving (inaction can have the same effect).

The Danger of Forum Owners Not Protecting Their Members

Forum owners should do everything they can to protect their members. This is particularly true within the website trading and internet marketing niche. Unfortunately, many forum owners not only fail to do so, they also take steps to stop others who are trying to protect others.

It’s happened to me before. About ten or eleven years ago I was pretty active in the domaining community DNForum (I believe I have 1,500+ posts there). I sold a lot of domains and websites there. With one particular website sale the buyer asked beforehand if he could only purchase the database as he only wanted the data and didn’t need the domain, website and theme. It wasn’t an uncommon request so I didn’t think I would have any problems with him.

After he agreed to buy the full website, we arranged payment via Paypal; which is what I used for most sales under $1,000 at the time. I don’t recall the exact value of the sale though it was probably around $400-$800.

For over ten years I’ve been an eNom reseller through my website 815Domains. He didn’t have an eNom account so after he paid I created an account for him and pushed the domain to the sub-account. I also gave him hosting details for the site. Unfortunately, the guy was a scumbag. After he received the domain and all website files he reversed the payment through PayPal. To add insult to injury he then messaged me laughing about it, trying to twist the knife in after his little scheme succeeded. PayPal offer sellers no protection in this kind of service. You’ll rarely win any case with them as they always take the buyer’s side. It’s why you should never use PayPal for large purchases; always go with Escrow.com instead.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. The buyer hadn’t moved the domain from the sub-account so I was able to login and push the domain back to my account. He had wreaked havoc on the database after he downloaded it so that I couldn’t use it but my host was able to roll back everything so in the end, whilst the buyer did get the data from the database, I still owned the website and I was able to sell it at a later date.

As I mentioned previously in this post, I have always been quick to warn others whenever I encounter a scammer. So when all of this happened, I wrote a very long detailed post on DNForum explaining what happened and warning others not to deal with the guy. I wasn’t looking for a pat on the back, I just didn’t want this guy to rip anyone else off.

Sadly, DNForum deleted my thread. Just like Warrior Forum, I was not told why it was deleted. One minute it was there, next minute it was gone. I’m sorry to say that particular member went on to rip off at least 2 or 3 other DNForum members before he as eventually banned. These people lost a lot of money because of stupid rules and guidelines that had been set up. Rules which are policed by moderators who can’t see the bigger picture.

The whole thing is baffling to me. It really is. A forum is only as good as its members. Without them, the forum is nothing. Therefore it’s vital that you look after them. Even if you didn’t depend on them, why wouldn’t your natural instinct not to be to protect others from being conned? What is the basis for deleting threads that warn others about known scammers?

I truly hope that forums would be more proactive in protecting members. Piracy is always going to be a problem in a digital world, whether it’s content, books, photos, software or movies. I don’t think content creators like myself will ever stop them and I’m not sure how much time we should spend chasing them for stealing our products either. Perhaps authors should be flattered that someone is stealing their content and be grateful of the exposure.

This issue doesn’t effect me a great day at the moment but it will in the future therefore I hope that forums allow members to warn others of websites that do rip us off. They should be looking out for members wherever they can. At the very least, they should explain their reasoning behind why we can’t help warn others.

Thanks for reading my happy Christmas message :)

Kevin