How Astoundify took down our theme from ThemeForest and envato didn’t protect us

Hi everybody.

We want to share with you our bad experience we had these days and ask for your opinion. Consider this an open letter to envato and Adam Pickering from Astoundify.

Context

Last year (2014), on March 23rd our theme FlatAds – Classified AdsWordPress Theme was published for sale on ThemeForest. We’ve worked a lot on new features for that theme and that’s the best selling theme on our account. After that we published the WPJobus WordPress theme which was way better in terms of architecture, though wasn’t a Classified Ads / Directory theme. We’ve decided that we should create a way more robust version of FlatAds using the experience gained meanwhile and launch it as another theme called Directory Builder.

So, a couple of months ago we started the work. We checked the best examples out there and came up with one of the most features full, flexible and universal WordPress theme for the Directory / Classifieds category. After a long period of submitting and bug fixing, we finally got it published for sale on ThemeForest on 6th May 2015. Here’s the live demo and here’s a snapshot of the theme description on ThemeForest:

Directory-Builder---Classified-Listings-Events

What happened

It generated a lot of great reactions and comments. We continued to work on small improvements and already made a list of new features which other users asked for. On the same day it received 2 comments from Astoundify:

“Listify Clone?”

“Issued DMCA, to anyone thinking of purchasing I would not recommend it as it will be removed.”

Both messages were reported by another ThemeForest user and deleted (we haven’t had the chance to read them or reply on ThemeForest), though we got notified by mail and got these messages.

comment-notification

Other users commented back that Astoundify’s product Listify is an Airbnb clone and he shouldn’t make such comments, instead create themes. Well, we took no action on this one. We were frustrated too when Listify was published for sale several months after our FlatAds theme was published, but we didn’t have the same negative reaction. It’s a free market and everybody should come up with better themes to get clients, not send DMCA notices and publish bad comments.

But the story doesn’t end here…

A few hours later, we received an email from [email protected] with the title “Request received: DMCA Received – Item Hard-Disabled”.

dmca-notice

That was a shock :/ after several months of work and several weeks for having it accepted and published we get this. And with absolutely no copy of the original DMCA notice attached. We understood though where it came from. So we can’t issue any counter DMCA notice, because we can’t read the original DMCA notice as it wasn’t attached.

That raised a lot of questions on our side. Does this mean that anybody can send a DMCA notice to any envato item and it will be unpublished and hard disabled? :/ That means absolutely no authors protection from envato. Not to say about sales. Meanwhile, we keep receiving emails:

email

email2

email3

Right. We explain envato help team that we haven’t received any DMCA notice and asked them to attach the original attachment which we haven’t received, though the item was unpublished. Time passes. More emails come into our inbox asking about the theme. We are already considering other themes marketplaces (Creative Market and ThemeSnap) for having this item published. But we say to ourselves that we should wait and read the original DMCA notice and submit a counter-DMCA notice, thought that would mean another 10 days of waiting and losing sales.

Finally, a few hours ago we received the original DMCA notice. I’ll blur any sensitive personal data and publish below its contents as this isn’t a confidential document:

DMCA-MAY-6-2015-THEMES-DOJO-DATED-1

DMCA-MAY-6-2015-THEMES-DOJO-DATED-2

Well, as we thought, it was from Astoundify. Now what’s wrong with all this from the envato persective. This act is invalid first of all. Why? Because that person which read it could check the contact details from the ThemeForest user and see that there is no Radu Trifan there, but Alex Gurghis instead. Second – they should have checked both themes and see that there isn’t any code written by Astoundify used in our theme. Not a single line. And you don’t even have to look at the code if that seems complicated, you can only browse the theme’s pages and see that everything works differently. Try adding a new listing and see that you have different interfaces and steps:

Here’s how you add a listing on Listify:

submit-listing-1

And here’s what you see when you try to add a listing on Directory Builder:

submit-listing-2

And that’s only a simple example. We can’t talk here about any copying.

Now. Related to Adam’s “good belief” that we use his copyrighted materials while swearing under penalty of perjury that the information is accurate and providing 3 links:

http://themeforest.net/item/directory-builder-classified-listings-events/11084578
http://wpdirectorybuilder.com/demos/listings-events/
http://wpdirectorybuilder.com/demos/listings/

About which moral rights are you talking about, Adam, when you’re the one taking Airbnb’s elements and implementing them into Listify? You’re not the inventor nor the author of those styles and nobody should ask for your permission, as we haven’t copied any code from your theme. Are you the only person in the world which has the right to use backgrounds of locations and put on them locations’ titles? We really doubt that. So, why do you act like this? While we understand your frustration (we had ours when we saw Listify after FlatAds), we completely disagree with your behavior. Because of you, Adam, our theme was unpublished and we lost the period when it was on ThemeForest’s frontpage. We lost sales. Thank you for that. Maybe that makes you happy.

airbnb

Here’s our counter DMCA notice:

counter-dmca-update-1

counter-dmca-update-2

Update 1 – May 9th, 2015

We tried to share our bad experience with other ThemeForest users and ask if somebody else had the same DMCA notice take-down situation and how they handled it. And our thread was locked in 9 minutes. The link describing the entire story was removed of course :/

forum

Meanwhile we receive the following answers to our ticket regarding the counter-DMCA notice. And that didn’t happen in 9 minutes. But almost in a day.

Envato Market Help
May 9, 05:57

Hi Alex,

Thank you for the counter notification (“put back” notice) for your item. We have sent a copy to the complainant.

Your item will be reinstated between 10 and 14 business days from when we received the counter notification, but if the complainant informs us that they have issued legal proceedings against you about this dispute, your item will not be reinstated.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Envato Market Help
May 9, 06:02

Hey Alex,

I must remind you that we are not copyright investigators and we are not in a position to make rulings on who the rightful owner of content is in this case. We must follow the DMCA laws and we will continue to do so throughout this process. As mentioned, your item will be reinstated if the author does not advise us legal action is being taken. This process is followed for every DMCA we receive unless blatantly frivolous. Thanks for your understanding.

Guys, we think that you are directly responsible for taking down our theme. Who else if not your did that? You acted based on a document that hadn’t even the right person’s details on it! And because of you we don’t have the theme for sale. Who else other than you should check if that is even a valid act? And no content from our item’s description page on ThemeForest has something that belongs to that user which issued the DMCA notice. And you should take decisions and make rulings based on a legal act from a court decision, not a vicious declaration from a user. So, yes – you are directly responsible for acting like this.

Update 2

We’ve just submitted our theme for sale on Creative Market and ThemeSnap temporarily and it’s already available for sale, while envato takes their time for sorting out this unpleasant situation.

Buy Directory Builder – Classified Ads Listings & Events via Creative Market


Buy Directory Builder – Classified Ads Listings & Events via ThemeSnap Marketplace


Update 3 – May 11th, 2015

We’ve seen this messages into a Google Group:

Captură de ecran din 2015.05.11 la 18.38.19

Captură de ecran din 2015.05.11 la 18.38.31

Unfortunately it seems like Adam has a special relation with a ThemeForest reviewer :/

Update 4 – May 21st, 2015

We finally receive this message. No appologies. No regrets. Nothing. You screwed us guys!

Captură de ecran din 2015.05.28 la 11.31.56

Of course we unpublished the theme from Theme Forest because they could switch our account to a non-exclusive account and give us only 36% instead of 70%, a rate for which we worked several years. We’ve lost sales. A lot of sales.

We decide to finish creating the dedicated Event Directory theme instead and publish it for sale on Theme Forest. And guess what …

Update 5 – May 27th, 2015

The story isn’t over here. They reject our new theme Event Builder with the following reason:

Unfortunately deleting an old item and submitting a new similar item is not allowed.

Captură de ecran din 2015.05.28 la 11.41.22

Guys – we didn’t wanted to resubmit Directory Builder! We submitted a new theme – Event Builder! Why are you saying that it’s the same / very similar theme?! It isn’t!

Now we had to update that old theme’s details to this new one and of course lose the frontpage time for new items … and of course all the people which bought it now get a totally different theme. Bravo Theme Forest!

And this is how Theme Forest killed two of our themes. Thank you.

Conclusion

We really expected envato to protect us, at least to take a look at both theme’s content and not act based on a document which didn’t even had the correct author’s name on it.

Regarding Adam – there’s isn’t much to say. You make your own conclusions.

PS: I wonder how good will he feel if his Listify theme is unpublished for the same number of days our theme is because of him. We’ll come up with updates on this post as things evolve.

Reactions

Please don’t let this unread and unseen. Spread the word! And thanks to the ones who did!

False DMCA by @astoundify screws over @ThemesDojo – How Astoundify took down our theme from ThemeForest… http://t.co/cNZ5APXZwM

— Gregg Housh (@GreggHoush) May 9, 2015

Hey Alex,

Sorry to read about the issue you’re having. I’m sure that Envato is automatically siding with Astoundify because their single Listify theme has generated ~$200k in revenue and they don’t want to lose that relationship to support a brand new theme with no sales yet.

Derek R.

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