“Big Sis” couldn’t wait for the Web Censorship bill to get pushed through. The investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department has begun shutting down several websites that they feel violate US copyright laws.
Sorry you wasted your time pushing this through committee Mr. Cornyn, it seems that the Feds don’t need the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) to start seizing domain names after all.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has seized dozens of domain names over the past few days, according to TorrentFreak.
ICE appears to be targeting sites that help Internet users download copyrighted music, as well as sites that sell bootleg goods, such as fake designer handbags.
The sites are replaced with a note from the government: “This domain named has been seized by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations.”
Quoth the owner of Torrent-Finder, “My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!” Can the feds do that? Well, if you follow the last link and look at the notice they’re posting on the seized sites, it refers you to 18 U.S.C. 981 and 18 U.S.C. 2323. Section 2323 basically says that property is subject to civil forfeiture to the government if you’re using it for the purpose of willful copyright infringement. Section 981(b) lays out the rules the feds need to follow to get court approval for the seizure: In most cases, it’s the same as it is to get a search warrant under Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Section 981(b)(3) lets the property owner challenge the seizure by filing a motion with the court that issued the warrant (as does FRCrP 41(g)) — but not until after your domain’s already been taken over and knocked offline. In which case … how is this significantly different from COICA?
Copyrights should be respected – we can all agree on that, but this “guilty until proven innocent” attitude of the Federal Government is a recipe for disaster. The website mentioned above never received a single complaint or notice from the court. One day they are in business and doing fine, and the next they are shut down and trying to figure out what happened.
Should the government get to pull the plug on a website after they are proven guilty, or at the moment of accusation?