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The Internet Data Storage

Protection From Online Eviction? 296

Posted by kdawson
from the our-data-our-selves dept.
AOL has been shutting down its free Web services, in some cases with little or no notice to users, and they are not the only ones. This blog post on the coming "datapocalypse" makes the case that those who host Web content should be required to provide notice and access to data for a year, and be held strictly accountable the way landlords are before they can evict a tenant. Some commenters on the post argue that you get what you pay for with free Web services, and that users should be backing up their data anyway. What do you think, should there be required notice and access before online hosts take user data offline for good?
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Protection From Online Eviction?

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  • Nuts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:01PM (#26314441)

    What has happened here was not eviction. If we are going to use that word correctly, that is.

    Evict (evicted, evicting, evicts) - To put out (a tenant, for example) by legal process; expel; Law to recover (property, for example) by a superior claim or legal process.

    Tenant - One that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another.

    Unless those people paid for a web hosting package, they have zero recourse and they cannot be evicted as they never paid a dime for anything. They should not have any either.

    I am sure there was some sort of TOS agreed to that it was for free and no guarantees were going to be made to it's avaiabilbity, backups of data were the users responsibility, etc.

    This seems to be some sort of insane sense of entitlement by some people. Some delusion that servers, data storage, and bandwidth are free. That once they find their place to squat that "they are owed" something by the people that actually own that space.

    Huh?

    That's ... ridiculous. "They've gone plaid".

    It was a free service and the web hosting providers have every right to do whatever the hell they want. There is no 99.9999% uptime SLA. It's called, "It's free. So sit down, have a coke, and shut the fuck up" SLA.

    The argument that there has to be some sort of socialist laws guarantying free and protected web space to the people is just nuts.

    Anyone wonder why property investors avoid certain parts of the East Cost US like the plague? It's because they have those laws there that can keep a squatter in a place for 9 months WHILE THEY DON'T PAY A DIME TO THE LANDLORD. Meanwhile, the landlord is paying a mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.

    Those people are parasites.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pxlmusic (1147117)

      i'm with you on that one. hosting and domain registration is cheap as hell these days.

      OTOH, could not the same be said of free e-mail? i say this knowing that for example, Comcast's users have nothing but issues with the e-mail access included in their accounts whereas i have no issues with my free GMail access.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I'm wondering about the analogy about web hosting, and people that rent apts and houses...and their supposed rights?!?!

        Where is this that you get so much notice and all? Down here...you get a written notice delivered to you by the sherrif. YOu have 30 days from there to be out...on day 31, your shit gets thrown out on the streets.

        Not to mention...it seems hard as hell to get a deposit back...I've been renting different places in NOLA for 10 years...and I've been stiffed on deposits a couple of times easil

        • by pxlmusic (1147117)

          not much. the average consumer has jack shit for protection these days.

          more of that "golden rule" crap.

        • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:22PM (#26315049) Homepage Journal

          In New York City, the tenants' rights are pretty strong. It's almost impossible for a landlord to evict a tenant who pays the rent, and it takes 6 months to evict a tenant who doesn't pay the rent. My landlord has to renew my yearly lease, at an increase regulated by law. After living here several years, I'm paying about half as much as the people who are now moving in paying what we call "market rent."

          That's because (1) There are more tenants in New York City than landlords (2) We had a long tradition of socialist movements in New York City that taught people how to organize into tenants' organizations and demand that our City Council pass strong laws protecting tenants. The strongest, most aggressive organization was the Metropolitan Council on Housing, whose leader, Esther Rand, openly supported the Communist Party (Lenin never liked landlords). For all their faults, those Communists knew how to organize people.

          Surprisingly (for those of you who believe in the free market) it works pretty well. The landlords are still getting rich (some of them very rich). There's lots of new housing being built. And a lot of people are able to live in New York City who could never have afforded to live here otherwise. There were some houses abandoned during the economic downturn of the 80s, but that seemed to affect both rent-controlled and uncontrolled housing equally, and it happened in cities without rent control too.

          In contrast, Boston had a rent control law, but a few years ago they voted it out. The last I heard, the rents have gone up, it was much harder to get an apartment in Boston, there's no building boom in affordable housing, and from a tenant's POV they're worse off than they used to be. But I'd be interested in first-hand information.

          I personally don't think rent control is the ideal solution. I think people who can't afford market-rate rents should be able to live in public housing projects (which also work better than you'd think), and landlords should be allowed to get as rich they want (provided they don't do it at my expense). But rent control was part of a grand bargain that the landlords in New York City struck with the tenants' organizations.

          I think the lesson is that tenants can get a much better housing market, with more affordable rents, if they organize and pass laws that benefit them, than they would if they leave it to the free market. If you want to learn how to organize, do a Google search for an MP3 of Pete Seeger's song, "Talking Union." Or search for "Howard Zinn".

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jcr (53032)

            The rental market in NYC is one of the most expensive in the world. Your rent control laws create strong disincentives to the owners to maintain the buildings, and drives conversion of rental units to condos. Because of the rent control, renters hang onto apartments even if they've moved out of the city, which restricts the supply and drives up the prices for anyone shopping for an apartment.

            You may benefit from robbing your landlord, and you may believe that you're entitled to do so, but don't forget th

            • by digitig (1056110) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:15PM (#26315787)
              And yet, very similar rent control laws here in the UK give us a spread of very expensive rentals (where property prices are high anyway) to relatively cheap rentals (where property prices are low anyway). Which suggests that the difference isn't because of rent control laws. So the rental market in NYC is expensive? How about if I wanted to purchase a place in NYC? Would that be nice and cheap?
              • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @10:46PM (#26316477)

                I remember the reason for this from economics class. Essentially, when you set a price ceiling on something that is above the equilibrium price for supply and demand, you have no effect on the market equilibrium.

                      What rent control DOES do in this case is prevent speculation and rapidly ratcheting up rates. If the price ceiling is slightly above the LONG term equilibrium for rents, it prevents short term speculation and economic manipulation (such as a period of easy credit) from artificially inflating rents and creating a bubble.

                How would you do this? Do competent asset analysis, factoring in the incomes and true value of a rental property. Come up with a reasonable 'formula' for a rent control ceiling based on this property value. Set the rent control rate to automatically INCREASE at 1% above the rate of inflation every year.

                      Do this competently, and you have put a governor on the free market engine, not blocked it.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            (1) There are more tenants in New York City than landlords

            Can you tell me in which cities this is not the case?

          • by rossz (67331) <ogre.geekbiker@net> on Sunday January 04, 2009 @02:28AM (#26317875) Homepage Journal

            In Santa Monica, California (affectionately known as Soviet Monica) the rent control laws were so strict that landlords couldn't charge enough to break even. This resulted in a black market where you had to pay a huge bribe up front to get an apartment or rental house. Santa Monica was a favored place for well off young couples to live for about five years so they could save up a down payment for their own house.

            This wasn't the worst of it. My mom's boss bought a small house in Santa Monica with the intention of living in it. It was pretty run down so needed a lot of work to make it livable. The rent control board decided that since the house had previously been rented, it would remain a rental unit even though no one had lived in it for several years! He had to hire lawyers and sue Santa Monica just for the right to live in his own hose. In the meantime, they wouldn't issue him the permits needed to repair the building.

            I'm fairly certain they've changed the rental laws there by now, but I haven't lived in that area for over 10 years so I'm not positive.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by slashtivus (1162793)
          In Wisconsin you are not allowed to evict a tenant between November and March (IIRC). The idea is that people can freeze to death without a home.

          The same applies to electricity and gas service, this applies to home-owners as well.

          Come April 1st you will be back out on the street, and good luck finding another apartment to rent (most ask for references / some want credit checks too). Also you will most likely get a judgment against you on your record / credit report.

          I am not sure what the rules are w

      • Re:Nuts (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @08:19PM (#26315437) Journal

        GMail is a good example - I can't help thinking that if Google decided to delete all the GMail accounts without warning, there'd be an uproar on Slashdot. I wonder how many of the "It's free, and they should've backed up" commenters here have full backups of their GMail accounts?

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by jcr (53032)

          I wonder how many of the "It's free, and they should've backed up" commenters here have full backups of their GMail accounts?

          As it happens, I didn't get a gmail account, because I didn't want my e-mail to depend entirely on a provider's largesse. I pay for my e-mail.

          -jcr

          • by pxlmusic (1147117)

            exactly. i don't have a gmail backup. furthermore, i've had mine for almost 5 years now, and the database is *huge* (You are currently using 1773 MB (24%) of your 7280 MB).

            i have made various attempts to pull down the mail into outlook or t-bird, but i keep having to re-initiate the send/receive function as it only grabs 200 - 300 messages at a time.

            • by pxlmusic (1147117)

              but that's the point i was making. the e-mail that people are actually "paying for" with Comcast is terrible. there are constant issues, outages, and that's not including the errors with that accursed "smartzone" migration.

              i doubt that hotmail or yahoo users experience these issues -- maybe more spam, but that's probably it.

        • Re:Nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:09PM (#26315745) Homepage Journal

          You don't think we pay for Gmail? I hear a little cash register ring every time I see another targeted advert.

          2008 was the year that it was discovered that not paying for something does not equal getting it free. Hell, the hysterics over at Wired Magazine had a whole issue about how much money can be made by not charging for stuff. Had a really ugly neon cover, too. I had to tear off the front cover before placing it in the bathroom next to my TV Guide and ashtray.

        • I access my *PAID* Gmail accounts (GMail managed domain email) via IMAP, and I make sure that all emails read are stored locally!!!

          What the hell are people with free email accounts thinking if they do not back them up? Most of my life I've used "free" email accounts (ISP, school, free web based, etc. etc. etc.) and every account I ever cared about was backed up. Paid or not, it doesn't matter - in the end any company or service can fail (or think mirrored RAID is backup) and in the end it's YOU WHO ARE T

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *

      I am sure there was some sort of TOS agreed to that it was for free and no guarantees were going to be made to it's availability, backups of data were the users responsibility, etc.

      Agreed, although it would be more polite to notify them. After all, it takes virtually no effort on AOL's part.

      • Re:Nuts (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:25PM (#26314671)

        Okay, politeness is nice and all. As long as we can agree it's not actually legally required.

        This is not so much about AOL as it about and it is more about what the author of the article is stating. From the article, the gentleman makes it sound like a call to arms for the oppressed and downtrodden. He is making into some sort of social injustice issue and that only laws will force the web hosting providers into doing the "right thing".

        So it would be in the best interest of those providing free services to treat their subscribers nicely since they get plenty of ad revenue from it. That's fine and dandy. It's just not legally required.

        • Re:Nuts (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rhizome (115711) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:46PM (#26314815) Homepage Journal

          Okay, politeness is nice and all. As long as we can agree it's not actually legally required.

          Correct. As stated many times, there is no law against being a dick.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          In general, it's also probably good business practice to notify people, in terms of making them less angry and giving them a chance to back it up if they didn't. But in the end, I'm extremely leery of legal regulation on things that are given away for free. Short of intentionally poisoning food at a soup kitchen I don't see a whole lot of justification.

          Legality and even ethics aside, I am sad as this will poke a lot more holes in our series of tubes, and cause many things that I find useful to go missing. I

      • Well if you want to discuss good business strategy, quality, and politeness we can do that, but legal recourse

      • by anagama (611277)

        Agreed, although it would be more polite to notify them. After all, it takes virtually no effort on AOL's part.

        Man, AOL sucks. First they took away no-cost bimonthly floppies with free delivery, and now free web space to boot. That's more than impolite -- they've ruined data storage options for untold millions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arth1 (260657)

      If something has been advertised for free, the payment is still there, it's just zero.
      In this case, the users are not squatters, they have been offered a service, and have accepted the service. Whether the payment is $0.00 or $0.01 shouldn't fundamentally change the basic rights.

      Whether the users are too demanding is another issue. In the case of data, it can and should be copied, and if you're stupid enough to not have a copy (or, rather, the original) on your own PCs, I think you deserve what you get.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by GravityStar (1209738)
        I don't see any need to give two-weeks notice to anyone who trolls a forum posting some inane story on what happened when he saw Obama. (You know what I'm talking about, you've seen these posts around here. Yes you have.)

        I would delete those posts (and the poster) from any forum I have moderator/sysop rights to. Without notice. A mandatory two-weeks notice would be wonderful for spammers, warez uploaders, trolls, hate-groups, etc.

        The author of the blog post hasn't thought this through. But then, that's indi
        • Re:Nuts (Score:4, Insightful)

          by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:17PM (#26315023)

          Violation of TOS is pretty different than a site closing itself down. Still, I agree, it's kind of silly to require them to keep it up. We'd just see

          1) Free hosting services stop because of liability
          2) Use of loopholes to circumvent this ill-conceived law
          3) Legal challenges (unlikely)

      • Re:Nuts (Score:4, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:52PM (#26314869)

        If something has been advertised for free, the payment is still there, it's just zero.

        Uhhh, Sorry but a "payment" must be non-zero by it's very definition. What you are trying to say is that you can construct a contractual agreement (TOS) without any sort of compensation. "Free" and "Payment" are mutually exclusive in any language on Earth.

        I think a livable solution would be a two-weeks notice, and a two-weeks extension for those who ask for it, and also a way for people to pay for getting the data delivered on a CD/DVD or similar (i.e. a stupidity surcharge).

        May be a nice solution and a polite one, but it should never be a legal requirement in a contract for web hosting providers that offer free service.

        The law is clear. If you are staying someplace without any contractual agreement or non-zero form of compensation the property owner can have the police forcibly remove you at will. No judge will support your claims for damages either. They will throw your case out of court since you never paid anything.

        There is a big difference between the law (various contract laws which govern contracts) and what is the "nice and warm fuzzy" way of doing things. It is often in companies best interests to get as close to possible as the "nice and warm fuzzy" way of doing things since it increases customer satisfaction, but it is not required by law.

        • Re:Nuts (Score:4, Informative)

          by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:19PM (#26315041)

          Actually under contract law many contracts require "consideration" be paid.

          Case in point: NDAs. An NDA is only legally a binding contract (US-Centric law here) if the signer receives compensation in some form for it. For example, in job interviews the NDA is usually reciprocal: we don't talk about you, you don't talk about us. In others it's a lunch.

          In many contracts you get or give $0.01 or $1.00 just to make sure it'll stand up.

        • Re:Nuts (Score:5, Interesting)

          by m.ducharme (1082683) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:29PM (#26315101)

          You're forgetting something very important: the law does not require that one party pay money for a contract to exist, only that there is some consideration. If AOL is providing a service for free, then you're correct. But if AOL is providing a service in exchange for showing you ads, or data-mining your surfing habits, then you are paying for the service and AOL is bound by the terms of the contract. If those terms include clauses stating that notice has to be given, then AOL has to give notice. If not, then the user is shit out of luck, should have bargained harder.

          Courts are very leery of making judgments on the value of the consideration (the price you pay) preferring to let contracting parties work out how much of what is worth the service or good contracted for, so I'm pretty confident that a judge would find that exposure to advertizing or data-mining would constitute sufficient consideration.

          Also, in contract law there is the notion of unconscionability, specifically that where one party to the contract is grossly more powerful than the other, the court can make decisions in favour of the less powerful party that would otherwise run afoul of contract law. True bargaining only occurs between equals, and the law has long recognized that.

          It's this principle that is the source of the renter's protection laws that you despise so much. Tenants get these protections because they would otherwise be powerless against their landlords, who could impose terms with impunity (pay up, or I'll throw you out on the street! And no, I won't get rid of those cockroaches! Too expensive!). You may not like it when poorer tenants are protected against their landlords, but I bet you don't object so much when you want to return something you bought under warranty. Warranty and consumer protection laws derive from the same principle of law.

          And lastly, if the cut-off of service wasn't mentioned at all in the TOS, the customers may have a remedy in tort for damages. The TOS would have to explicitly waive liability on cessation of service to exclude recovery in tort.

          (note that of course, I am not a lawyer, this is not advice, blah blah blah.)

          • by horatio (127595)

            So if I understand the logic correctly here: I can set up a lemonade stand in the front of my house and give away free lemonade. I can collect information by passively observing the people who pick up one of these free lemonades (sex, race, vehicle, age, direction on the street they came from, etc). To keep with what you've said, I have a sign nearby that says "Free lemonade sponsored by Jack's Shrimp Shack" because my friend Jack kindly underwrote some of my costs. Then at some point I decide that my ex

          • by EdIII (1114411) *

            You're forgetting something very important: the law does not require that one party pay money for a contract to exist, only that there is some consideration. If AOL is providing a service for free, then you're correct. But if AOL is providing a service in exchange for showing you ads, or data-mining your surfing habits, then you are paying for the service and AOL is bound by the terms of the contract. If those terms include clauses stating that notice has to be given, then AOL has to give notice. If not, th

          • by unassimilatible (225662) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:53PM (#26316111) Journal
            Also, in contract law there is the notion of unconscionability, specifically that where one party to the contract is grossly more powerful than the other, the court can make decisions in favour of the less powerful party that would otherwise run afoul of contract law. True bargaining only occurs between equals, and the law has long recognized that.

            There are actually two elements of unconscionability: Procedural and substantive. Procedural means that the process was unfair in some way; in this case, that the end user had no reasonable alternative but to sign a contract of adhesion. O rly? There aren't 100's of free Web hosts out there besides AOL? Not to mention the cheap-ass Web hosts out there. I have a great one with a free domain name for $7/month with phenomenal service that has backups in a different state! So I doubt there is procedural unconscionability.

            As for substantive, were there grossly unfair - not just unfair, but so unfair as to "shock the conscience of the court" - or surprise terms in the contract? Or were AOL's TOS in line with what most free Web hosts offer? Substantive unconscionability is a very high burden to meet, and the vast majority of contracts of adhesion are upheld for this reason. Almost certainly this substantive element would fail as well.

            It's this principle that is the source of the renter's protection laws that you despise so much.

            No, the principle is that there are more renters than apartment owners, and therefore politicians pander to the tyranny of the majority (and those who feel sorry for them) while trampling on the property rights of the minority. Votes over principle. Just please don't call it "renters' rights." There are no such rights, only cynical politicians willing to rob from Peter to pay Paul; and the politician who does that will always have the support of Paul.

            And lastly, if the cut-off of service wasn't mentioned at all in the TOS, the customers may have a remedy in tort for damages. The TOS would have to explicitly waive liability on cessation of service to exclude recovery in tort.

            Dude, first off, stop trying to sound like a lawyer - it's like when a white guy tries to speak urban lingo - he just sounds lame. "A remedy in tort" - LOL.

            Secondly, obviously the biggest ISP in the world has an indemnity clause in its TOS. More importantly, AOL is based in Virginia - a UCITA [wikipedia.org] state - and its choice of forum and law clauses dictate all disputes are to be litigated there under VA law. So even without an indemnity clause, it's unlikely end users would win a lot of court cases in VA.

            IAALBNYLATINLA (I Am A Lawyer But Not Your Lawyer And This Is Not Legal Advice). And I have taught business law for ten years, so I am not totally talking out of my arse.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by m.ducharme (1082683)

              There are actually two elements of unconscionability: Procedural and substantive.

              Point taken, and yes, you're right on both counts, there isn't much of an argument about unconscionability to make. I didn't mean that it was a good argument, just a possible argument.

              No, the principle is that there are more renters than apartment owners, and therefore politicians pander to the tyranny of the majority (and those who feel sorry for them) while trampling on the property rights of the minority.

              I'm not going to just buy this one, sorry. If you're a renter and you don't have any protection from your landlord, you are totally at her mercy. That was the entire basis for the feudal system, remember? Class and rank based on whether you owned the land (or held it in stewardship for someone who did). Politicians should d

      • From what I remember of business law 10 years ago:

        Offer, Acceptance, Consideration.

        Host Offers service, you Accept, and your consideration is to abide by the terms *they* set specifically because it is a form of giving up certain legal rights *as payment* to use their service. Typical is "no foreign language sites". They're too lazy to translate sites for policing purposes, so they make it a TermOfService, which you agree to for their sake.

        Unfortunately, companies are learning that "free as in beer" can be

      • If something has been advertised for free, the payment is still there, it's just zero. In this case, the users are not squatters, they have been offered a service, and have accepted the service. Whether the payment is $0.00 or $0.01 shouldn't fundamentally change the basic rights

        So I guess if something happens to my data when running Linux I should have legal recourse against the developers and companies like Red Hat? Or do we only go after companies you don't like?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Malevolyn (776946)
      1&1 has a practice of suspending your account and removing all data without any notice. I was running a website hosted by them, and on said site we got into a discussion about phishing. 1&1 came to the conclusion that my site was actually being used for phishing and shut it down with absolutely zero notice. I didn't find out until I tried to login to my admin panel.

      1&1 is supposedly one of the biggest hosting companies in the world and I'm appalled at their actions. I was never able to receiv
      • by wkcole (644783)

        1&1 has a practice of suspending your account and removing all data without any notice. I was running a website hosted by them, and on said site we got into a discussion about phishing. 1&1 came to the conclusion that my site was actually being used for phishing and shut it down with absolutely zero notice. I didn't find out until I tried to login to my admin panel.

        And that is completely within the terms and conditions clearly linked from many (all?) of the pages on 1&1's site. Tose terms are the contract for service that they offer, and it clearly says that they can terminate service unilaterally without notice, review, or liability if they think a site is violating their usage rules. If one wants a different sort of service, one selects a different provider or negotiates a different set of terms from their norm.

        If one buys their service under those terms an

    • Re:Nuts (Score:5, Interesting)

      by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:50PM (#26314849)

      It is not just the east coast that can be punitive in regard to land owners. Squatters can often cost a fortune and take years to evict in many states.
                However I don't feel sorry for these landlords getting stuck at all. Many times they are arrogant and terrorize tenants with illegal actions. For example I know one old creep who refused to repair a septic system with the claim that since a tenant lived there the tenant must pay for the work. The guy knew just how to get revenge and paid to get the sewer system fixed and stopped the rent dead cold. It took close to a year to get him evicted and the loss of legal fees and rent was a stunning lesson to that landlord. And in Florida collecting a judgment can be impossible so the tenant knew full well that he had won the battle.

      • "It took close to a year to get him evicted and the loss of legal fees and rent was a stunning lesson to that landlord."

        IANAL but I do watch an unhealthy amount of people's court. A great bulk of those cases deals with the landlord / tenant relationship and rent. While I have no doubt that it could have taken close to a year to go through the process, everything that I have ever heard on the subject tells me that the tenant would have to pay the landlord rent for all of those months that he was staying ther

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          IANAL, etc. but I've done a little amateur poking at the relevant laws(rented house turned out to have major plumbing issues that rendered it uninhabitable without repair, landlady wasn't interested in doing anything, I was a poor college student and really didn't feel like doing capital improvements for her). In any case, I learned that there are federal, state, and municipal laws that all apply to the situation. The federal stuff(that I saw, in any case) was fairly minimal, but state and municipal law had
    • Nice job, parent poster, dispelling the entitlement mentality of the article submitter. I keep hearing all of these supposed libertarian-minded /.'ers, who turn like Sinatra after two Martinis as soon as the other guy wants to exercise his own rights.

      Anyone wonder why property investors avoid certain parts of the East Cost US like the plague? It's because they have those laws there that can keep a squatter in a place for 9 months WHILE THEY DON'T PAY A DIME TO THE LANDLORD. Meanwhile, the landlord is pa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jadecristal (135389)
      I'm not sure that it's that they're parasites, it's that like so many other people in the world, they don't want to *think*.

      Like a turkey drawn with a child's hand or a collection of snow globes collected from a life well-lived, these sites were hand-made, done by real people, with no agenda or business plan or knowledge, exactly, of how everything under the webservers worked.

      Now, the key part here is "no knowledge . . . of how everything under the webservers worked." They presume that it's someone else's problem when the content is gone, but they:

      1. Didn't back it up,
      2. Didn't know how to back it up,
      3. Didn't care to know how to back it up,
      4. Likely told themselves that despite paying nothing, they didn't need to think about it enough to know how to back it up, and
  • by johannesg (664142) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:04PM (#26314477)

    What is needed are clear terms of usage. If those state the owner of the free service can take the site down with no advance warning and without providing access to the data, they can do so. The site owner in turn can decide whether he wants to deal with such a free service or not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *

      If those state the owner of the free service can take the site down with no advance warning and without providing access to the data, they can do so.

      I doubt AOL's lawyers would allow them to offer such a service without those conditions.

    • by Fëanáro (130986)

      What is needed are clear terms of usage.

      since noone reads those terms of usage anyway, and in case of a shutdown customer satisfaction is irrelevant, what incentive would providers have to offer anything above what is required by law?

      • Whether or not they read the agreement is irrelevant, they agreed to it, they are bound by the terms.

        • by Fëanáro (130986)

          Which is why noone is discussing suing aol for damages in this case, instead the discussion is about changing the law.

    • by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:25PM (#26314669)

      What is needed are clear terms of usage.

      What in the world are you talking about? All of the sites [circavie.com] in [aol.com] question [ficlets.com] have a nice link to AOL's TOS [aol.com] at the bottom of the page. Their TOS is fairly specific about what you can expect from the service (in this case pay attention to points 6, 17, and 18), which is absolutely squat if they say so. The services are free, what else would you expect?

      I agree that there are a lot of problems with the TOS for many services, but those problems usually don't stem from being unclear (most of the time), they stem from the fact that most TOS are downright draconian, spelled out to the letter and leave the consumer with negligible wiggle room.

      • The services are free, what else would you expect?

        Not quite. There's a principle in law called reasonable reliance. (Wikipedia doesn't have an entry, and I can't find a good definition on the web.)

        If you reasonably rely on someone else's assurances, and you get screwed, that person can be liable for your damages.

        If somebody offers me free software, and I use the software to set up my business data, and the software becomes unusable (say, their copy protection goes psycho), I could argue that I relied on their assurances about their software and now I'm scr

        • "If you reasonably rely on someone's assurances" - READ the damn TOS. It SPECIFICALLY STATES that you cannot rely on guaranteed availability or ongoing continuation of service. There goes your reliable reliance, right there. So sad, too bad.
        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @09:28PM (#26315883) Homepage Journal

          Read the TOS please. It states that AOL can take it down at anytime and the users agreed to that.
          How about people taking some reponsibilty for a change?
          Make stinking backups.
          Heck USB flash drives and DVDs are CHEAP. make copies people.

    • by b4upoo (166390)

      What is really needed is the idea that anyone causing harm faces potential disaster. It is not reasonable behavior to shut down a free service without notice. It is up to juries to decide if real harm was done and weigh that against why the shut down was sudden and without notice.

  • by Rix (54095) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:05PM (#26314487)
    You obviously have to have a local copy of your data at some point. Why are you deleting it?
  • by retech (1228598) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:07PM (#26314507)
    It's free, so how can anyone complain?
    • Tell me that after you go to the free clinic and get a shot of botchalism.
      • by tftp (111690)

        A free clinic in, say, Canada is paid by your taxes. In fact, doctors send their bills to the government - so the money is paid, and the service is not free. It's just prepaid by all citizens. If it's flawed then anyone who is affected can complain.

        On the other hand, if you go to a private person and he gives you a wrong treatment for free then, outside of regulations on medical practice, you can't do much. To make the case clearer (since doctors are heavily regulated,) if someone repairs your iPod for fr

      • The free clinic has a duty of care to you and your person - there can exist no suitable equal when it comes to a website.
      • by honkycat (249849)

        There's an important difference between shutting down a service and willfully or negligently inflicting harm.

    • Remember MP3.com? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:46PM (#26314817) Journal

      I remember MP3.com around the year 2000, when it was actually cool. Indie bands could post their music in any of zillions of genres, and you could listen with a click. I fell in love with one particular genre, the New Age genre, which consists of lots of trance tracks. But when MP3.com started down the "we host your CD library for you!" I knew that the game was about up and that they were about to be sued into oblivion (which happened), and wrote a bash/wget script to download everything I could of the MP3s. I still have this collection of MP3s today, almost 10 years later. In fact, I'm listening to it right now.

      Aren't backups great?

      If you care, take a look at the SLA. And if it's free, don't cry about not getting what you didn't pay for in the first place.

  • by mcdonald.or (985710) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:07PM (#26314515)

    Anyone who uses a free webhost and doesn't have a backup of the website is completely without my sympathy if the free webhoster decides to delete the site.

    If the site is important, spend the money for a hosted site, it will probably cost less per month than your internet connection. Besides, most ISPs give you a site with your connection.

    Even if you have paid for a site, you should have your own backup. At least one.

  • Contract (Score:3, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:09PM (#26314529)

    In the case of renters, we have legal protection because if you get evicted without notice you may find yourself temporarily homeless, and that is a *huge* problem. It has direct impacts on people that extend far beyond the simple financial costs of moving on short notice.

    On the other hand, getting your web site shut down really only has economic impacts that are in line with the cost of moving your web site. So, if those costs are large, you should have a service level agreement with your hosting provider. The one exception is all those old links to your web site. Requiring hosting providers to provide redirects to your new site seems minimally intrusive for all concerned, and solves the problem. However, I think the size of the problem is small relative to the cost of adding yet more random crud to our legal code. If your web presence is even marginally important, buy your own domain name and then if you get evicted set it up to point to your new host.

    And it goes without saying that you should have backups of your data. You should always have backups of your data.

    The correct response to these things is to make a big stink about it online, so people know who to avoid (and possibly shame the companies into handling the evictions better). It is emphatically not more nanny state regulations to protect ourselves from doing things that were stupid in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      Of course, if it were not for the monopoly strangle hold that the telecom/cable companies have on last mile internet access, you could just buy a purpose dedicated box and host the darn thing yourself.
  • See Journalspace (Score:3, Insightful)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:09PM (#26314535) Homepage Journal

    You should be backing up everything that you don't want to lose anyways in case that the online service provider isn't backing stuff up.

    It doesn't even have to be malicious, Journalspace is a good example of people who didn't know what a backup was and lost a bunch of data.

  • The basic reason for the notice requirement on evictions is that evictions tend to leave a person without a home. When getting cut off from online access to relatively unimportant content has the same devastating repercussions, I guess the same requirements will begin to apply.
  • 30 days seems reasonable to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *
      This is AOL we are talking about here. A month is barely enough time to recover the text of the website, much less the images.
  • I think it would be nice(and not too much trouble) for free sites like this to let there users know some time in advance so they are prepared. The law certainly has no reason to be involved here.

    Now a pay service, that's completely different of course.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:15PM (#26314581) Homepage
    Huh? As far as I can tell from the links, they gave about 6 weeks' notices for all these things. That seems to me like a very reasonable amount of advance notice, considering this is a free service. If users had a small amount of content, then they can just cut and paste it into a word processor to preserve it. If they had the world's most extensive blog, with hundreds of thousands of words scattered through thousands of posts, and six weeks isn't enough time to evacuate ... well, they shouldn't have entrusted such an important part of their life to a free service without making regular backups.
    • by Larryish (1215510) <larryish@@@gmail...com> on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:24PM (#26315071)

      If they had the world's most extensive blog, with hundreds of thousands of words scattered through thousands of posts, and six weeks isn't enough time to evacuate ...

      Such a person needs to archive their entire website.

      There is one such utility that comes to mind. It is called HTTrack [httrack.com] and is freely available for a variety of platforms.

      From the site:

      HTTrack is a free (GPL, libre/free software) and easy-to-use offline browser utility.

      It allows you to download a World Wide Web site from the Internet to a local directory, building recursively all directories, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site's relative link-structure. Simply open a page of the "mirrored" website in your browser, and you can browse the site from link to link, as if you were viewing it online. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. HTTrack is fully configurable, and has an integrated help system.


      Been using it for years and it works VERY well.

  • Internet Archive (Score:2, Informative)

    by antimatter15 (1261618)
    I'd like for web.archive.org to be more reliable.
  • Seriously, if your online presence is that important, its not as if it would cost much to get a paid for service.

    I use some free services, google project hosting, gmail, facebook, but there is not one thing I have in any of these services which is of any value that isn't backup up, in triplicate in most cases.

    I also have paid for hosting, doesn't cost much, and even the stuff I have there is backed up locally with again triple backups.

    The real issue here is being inconvenienced by a free service shutting do

  • Good warning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:19PM (#26314615)
    This is a good warning at a time when cloud computing is becoming a popular concept to both businesses and software developers. Businesses will hopefully make it a priority to invest in and expect cross-compatible solutions and keep local backups. Software developers will hopefully listen and make these options available, even though it may be in their interest to lock up that data.

    In addition, it will probably affect a lot of users who store important information or contacts lists or conversation histories that may need to be referred to daily by these individuals, and serve as a warning to them as to what can happen if they start to store a lot of important data that they cannot easily backup for use in applications that may not always be available.
  • Of course (Score:3, Funny)

    by Paradise Pete (33184) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:21PM (#26314633) Journal
    Yes, absolutely. There should be a law against anything that might cause even the slightest inconvenience. Nothing bad should ever happen to anybody, and if it does, someone has to pay.
  • Here we go again... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:24PM (#26314659) Homepage

    In the computer room at my college, many years ago, there was the following sign:

    Rule 1: Always make a backup.
    Rule 2: Always make a backup. (This is a backup of Rule 1)

    Just because things are now on Web 2.0 services over the internet doesn't change the fundamental dictum. If you care about the data, it is you who needs backups. If you don't make backups, obviously you don't care (enough)...

    • by pondlife (56385) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:49PM (#26314835)

      In the computer room at my college, many years ago, there was the following sign:

      Rule 1: Always make a backup.
      Rule 2: Always make a backup. (This is a backup of Rule 1)

      Just because things are now on Web 2.0 services over the internet doesn't change the fundamental dictum. If you care about the data, it is you who needs backups. If you don't make backups, obviously you don't care (enough)...

      What about Rule 0:

      Rule 0: the following rules apply only to techies, who are the only people capable of understanding even the basic issues involved

      Seriously, if you provide a consumer service of any kind, and you expect the consumers to do anything more than just use the service, you are seriously deluded. People - including, I suspect, many techies - will never do anything more than chat/download/email/surf/whatever.

      My bank doesn't tell me to back up my account details in case their internet service goes down, why should anything else be different? Yes, that's a rhetorical question, and of course you and I understand the difference, but why should anyone else?

      Anyway, the point is that this is not even a technical issue: it's a business one. How do you persuade people to start paying not only for "free" services (Facebook) but "worthless" invisible ones (a backup of your Facebook data)?

      If you can solve that, let us know. Until then, going on about backups is only preaching to the choir. Most of whom have probably had a nasty experience with things going wrong already... :-) [slashdot.org]

      • Seriously, if you provide a consumer service of any kind, and you expect the consumers to do anything more than just use the service, you are seriously deluded. People - including, I suspect, many techies - will never do anything more than chat/download/email/surf/whatever.

        No, I expect customers to lose their data if they haven't backed it up. If they want to purchase a backup solution, I will sell it to them. Otherwise, it's quite logical that it will be lost.

    • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:51PM (#26314859) Journal
      Please tell me there was another sign in the laundry room reading

      Rule 3: Always make a backup ( This is an offsite backup of rule 1)

    • by Ckwop (707653)

      You forgot Rule 3.

      Rule 3: If you can't perform a backup with the a given service don't use that service.

      And it's at that point, you realise the "cloud" is vendor lock-in by another name.

  • by Jamamala (983884)
    I've had about 4 reminder emails over the past 6 months telling me that AOL pictures will be closing, even though I don't use it - I just happen to have AOL as my ISP (or used to, until they sold everything to Carphone Warehouse / TalkTalk..)

    So in that particular case, I got quite a good "eviction" notice in plenty of time, even though I don't occupy the building!
    • by mikael (484)

      Another family member had an AOL account that he used while working across the world - he needed a permanent E-mail address that he could access anywhere in the world. AOL suited him fine as there was always a dial-up modem pool.Plus the fact that he only needed to pay around $10 per month to do this.

      Well, at least until AOL decided to abandon their modem pool service. So he came home and suddenly found out that he couldn't read his E-mail. It was twoweeks until he was able to get a non-AOL broadband connec

  • by jcwren (166164) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:26PM (#26314685) Homepage

    ...is the public housing project of the internet.

  • by internewt (640704) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:36PM (#26314733) Journal

    Something that could help mitigate the consequences of things like this in future is something that I have been looking for for quite a while now.... a FF extension that will automatically save all the contents of all submitted forms.

    FF already (mainly annoyingly) saves some of what gets entered into forms, but it won't save this rant, for instance. It'll save every possible typo varient of an email address that you might enter, and offer you the typos until the end of time, but the content you might want again in the future? Oh no.

    Has anyone seen an extension like this? Or know of an extension that may have this feaure?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evanbd (210358)

      Start typing. See suggestion list appear. Press down arrow to select typo. Press delete. You'll never see the typo again.

      Now, why that isn't explained anywhere in any documentation I can find, I don't know. But it's there, and it works, and it's handy.

      You might also like to try out It's All Text! which lets you edit text boxes with your favorite editor. Local copes are then just a :w ~/foo/bar.txt away. Not automatic, but I use it when writing something long.

  • If you get hosting through your ISP, you should be at least offered to have a DVD of your data mailed to you for a fee, or have a week or two to download everything. Otherwise, they owe you nothing since you never invested any money into the relationship.
  • I paid for it as part of my contract with AOL. Push has come to shove. See you later AOL.
  • by davmoo (63521) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:54PM (#26314879)

    I own a few servers, and both sell hosting to paying customers, and give free hosting to some friends.

    I try to always keep everyone informed on what's going on. Last time I upgraded one server to a newer model, I gave everyone on that server 4 months notice and kept the old server running for 2 more months after the new server was up and in regular service. And I keep meticulous daily backups, and have been known to mail DVDs of their own data to those who ask for them, even for those who host on my servers for free.

    But on a free service, people, you don't have "rights" to "demand" jack shit. If you don't like my terms for free hosting, then shuffle your cheap ass off to another host. Web hosting is one of those services where you get what you pay for. If you want guarantees and a formal policy, then you're going to give me some of those little American government generated pictures of dead presidents in return.

    It never ceases to amaze me how people with no financial investment or payments at stake are so readily willing to tell equipment owners what to do. And because of them, I'm just as readily willing to tell freeloaders to kiss my web hosting ass.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:59PM (#26314917) Homepage

    IMO it depends on whether you're paying and have a contract or not. If you're not paying (in cash or in some other form), then the host should be entitled to terminate without warning. They should be required to provide a way for you to back up your content, but if you haven't been using it they shouldn't be obliged to do anything. You get what you pay for.

    If you are paying, then at least 30 days' warning should be required and the host should be obliged to provide some way for you to transfer your data off. If they're taking money, they don't get to simply disregard their customers. A caveat to that should be that if there's a written contract then the terms of that contract should apply. If the contract lets the host terminate with no warning and no opportunity for you to recover your data, and you were dumb enough to sign it, then you should suffer the consequences. If there wasn't a written, signed contract (eg. all there was was the host's standard ToS that you didn't have to explicitly sign), then minimum requirements should apply regardless.

  • Free Services? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @07:12PM (#26314983) Homepage Journal

    Give me a break. if you want some sort of TOS, buy an account.

  • by TheZed (151921)

    If you kick up a big enough stink, I'm sure they'll refund the purchase price... heck, they may even double it in this case!

  • I see XDrive goes away as well on Jan. 12, 2009. Makes you wonder why AOL bought it out in the first place. While I don't claim I have rights in a free service for which the TOS state clearly that it can be ended at any time without nice, it is still a pain and raises in my mind the question others have: how much should we rely on free online services? The obvious answer based on experience seems to be, not at all, but what about something really big like Gmail? I use POP3 to backup my Gmail corresponde
  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @08:07PM (#26315371)

    AOL offered something FREE?! Did you look for the asterisk that came after the word 'FREE'? Hmmmmm..... me thinks not.....

    The TEN COMMANDMANTS OF AOL:

    1) THOU SHALT NOT OFFER ANYTHING FREE, UNLESS IN CONJUNCTION WITH #3 AND/OR #4

    2) THOU SHALT BONE THY CUSTOMER FOR EVERY PENNY THOU CAN GET.

    3) THOU SHALT DROWN THY CUSTOMER IN ADVERTISING, PROMOS, AND PRODUCT TIE-INS.

    4) THOU SHALT COVER THY EARTH WITH AOL DISKS.

    5) THOU SHALT PROVIDE CUSTOMER SERVICE AS HORRIBLY AS THY CAN IMAGINE.

    6) THOU SHALT DISAPPOINT THY STOCKHOLDERS.

    7) THOU SHALT HOLD DATA FOR RANSOM.

    8) THOU SHALT NOT PRACTICE BUSINESS ETHICS.

    9) THOU SHALT COLLABORATE WITH BIG BROTHER FOR LIFE-SUSTAINING CASH.

    10) THOU SHALT PLACE EMPHASIS ON THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE "Caveat Emptor").

    If you take the bait of a 'free' (or ANY) service from AOL, then you shouldn't be using the internet. Or running a web site.

  • It is quite dickish to delete the data of tons and tons of people without notice, free or not free.

    But data is not the same as physical property (see the "theft is not the same as copyright infringment" argument that is so popular on Slashdot), so laws relating to eviction from physical space shouldn't apply to eviction from digital space.

    The intent of an eviction notice is for humanitarian reasons. Eviction notices allow renters to make arrangements to live elsewhere without having to suffer through tempor

  • Just the way it is. Do they own you notice?

    Free is worthless. Trust no one. Heck, you PAY for the server at work, pay people like me to keep it running, and even then you have backups, redundancy, the secret envelope with the admin password (fat lot of good that does) and off-site whatever.

    Backup your Gmail. Nothing is truly free.

  • Value of a URL? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WillAdams (45638) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @09:02PM (#26324649) Homepage

    I've been a paying member of AOL long enough to be considered a "charter" member, and was quite irritated by AOL taking away their web-hosting @ members.aol.com --- I'd had pages up since its inception and had lots of people linking to said pages and files.

    While I've gotten everything backed up and moved to a new site and notified everyone I could think of --- that doesn't address print references in journals and printed documentation --- all of which are now out-of-date.

    I'd've gladly paid a bit extra, instead, I demanded a refund and cut my plan back to BYOA (bring your own access) --- how can this be good for their bottom line?

    William

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