I purchased Koolmuzone.com in January 2009. By the end of 2009, I had built some kind of traffic as well some kind of authority in the Pakistani music space; but I was still not making anything more than a pocket change. Part of the reason why that happened was because you didn’t really get paid anything for Pakistani traffic. People can relate to that even today. I mean if in 2020 you make significantly less on a Pakistani traffic compared to the US traffic, you can imagine how bad it was in 2009.
Ten months into my efforts to make this work, I still hadn’t generated more than $200. In October of 2009, Telenor announced a blogging competition. Bloggers were supposed to generate maximum outbound traffic from their blogs to Telenor Weblounge Portal. Because I had significant traffic, but no means to monetize, I placed Telenor banners on my blog (for free). A month later, Telenor published the stats and Koolmuzone had won the competition.
By November, I received a Blackberry Bold phone as a prize for the competition. After receiving it, I drove straight to blue area and sold it for $500 so I could use it to fund the future growth of my business.
Two days ago, I wrote about the reason why I got introduced to PHPMailer. I finished my blog saying that I ended up using PHPMailer for a completely different reason. This blog is a continuation of that.
In 2011, my music blog Koolmuzone was seeing growth faster than it had seen before. It was burning all the rocket fuel, breaking all its previous records. The kind of growth that made certain people uncomfortable.
One late February night became one of the most miserable nights for me. Days became weeks, and weeks became months, but the misery didn’t end. Someone clearly didn’t like me and so he found a way to take Koolmuzone’s Facebook page down.
My page was taken down by a fake DMCA report. It took me many weeks to understand what happened, and I’m going to explain that below as clearly as I possibly can.
Most of the times when you get a DMCA report, it is for copyright infringement. But this one was different. It wasn’t a copyright report. You can see the copy of the claim below
We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights:
We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.
If you believe that we have made a mistake in removing this content, then please visit http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=1108 for more information.
The Facebook Team
The fine line here was that the person who sent this report to Facebook didn’t say I was violating anyone’s copyrights. That there wasn’t any particular piece of content on my page that infringed someone else’s right. The report rather claimed that the ‘page name’ itself is infringing someone’s rights; a trademark claim.
I read that email everyday for many weeks until I found out what happened when I read the following line
This line made me realize that the content that infringes someone’s rights is the page name itself.
After I realized this is a bogus TM claim, I started seeking for the legal ways to acquire trademark for my brand which wasn’t trademarked at that time, neither by me nor by someone else. The TM didn’t exist in any country or jurisdiction. It was a bogus TM claim that Facebook asked me to resolve directly with the other party by providing his (fake) email address that no one responded to.
First Attempt of Recovery
So I went ahead and locally registered my company, acquired the relevant tax number for my business and obtained the relevant trademark. However, in the end I was still asked by Facebook that it doesn’t resolve any DMCA claims, instead I should directly resolve the matter with the claiming party or in a court of law. A party with a pseudonym and a fake email. I was stuck, and I was still devastated.
After spending a few more weeks, sometime in April, I thought of something. I thought if Facebook can be as stupid as this with a fake trademark claim, it could be even more stupid than that.
I realized that there could be a potential solution to this problem and the solution could be PHPMailer. The thing about PHPMailer, or any mailer for that matter, is that you can send email “from” anyone’s email address “to” anyone’s email address. This might be difficult for some people to understand but the way the email protocol works is that you can send an email from an email address that you don’t own or have no access to.
The only thing different about such emails are the “email headers” that are commonly used to verify the real origin of such an email. The email headers mention the real domain name / server IP from where the email originated from and can be helpful in detecting spoof emails.
Because Facebook took a page down on a fake TM claim, I wondered if it would restore the page if the fake email address took the fake TM claim back, without verifying the email headers. And so I sent out that email.
The next morning, my page was restored.
I was hurt, very very hurt. I buckled up and got back to work. I had wasted over 2 months because someone wasn’t happy with the progress we were making.
Over the years, I’ve tried to understand the psychology of people who do that. They think there are two ways to win the race. The first way is to run faster, so you can really get ahead. This, in my opinion, is the only way to actually win and make progress. The second way, however, is to hurt your competition, so you can get ahead of him.
The problem with the second approach is that although you get ahead of your competition, you don’t really move farther in the true sense. You’re still standing right there, only with weapons. And if you think about it; what good does it do to you? If you win a race by eliminating your competition, how does that benefit you?
Sure, you’ll get the winner’s medal but without actually moving forward. You’re not going to have any more visitors coming in or you won’t be generating any more revenue. Why would you do all of this for a fucking medal. If, the person who hurt me, is reading this; think about it.
Since then, in the past 7 years, I’ve never worked in the Pakistani industry. It was toxic and I wonder if anything has changed so far. Even if things have changed, I’ve never really mustered courage to ever work here again.
To all the people who have stood by me during this tough time, I owe everything to all of you. To everyone who were the reason for my pain, I forgive you, although I’ll be surprised if you were seeking forgiveness at all.
After having spent 8 years and after building large amount of audience, I realized that advertising revenue for Pakistani traffic was tens of times lesser, approximated to be 30 times lesser at that time, than American traffic.
It took me 8 years to understand that CPMs for different geographical locations are different. It took me 8 years of my life to really understand that ad dollars aren’t decided out of magic, but are based on supply and demand economics. That ad dollars aren’t chosen arbitrarily, but are driven based on competition.
I was young and dumb. I had no one to tell me or teach me. I couldn’t find right resources on the internet and didn’t know where to look. In hindsight, I wish someone could have told me. Someone could have trained me and saved 8 years of my life. I could be so much ahead of the game by now had I learnt that so early.
But I was on a dial up, YouTube wasn’t founded yet, and there was no community, guidance or mentorship available.
I learnt from my experiences. I got tired trying to do so. I wasted years looking for things with no direction. You don’t have to learn everything from your own experiences. While I know that you will still learn the most out of your own mistakes, I hope and wish that you learn more than me from others.