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DHS Seized Domains Based On Bad Evidence 235

Posted by Soulskill
from the legal-systems-and-intertubes-don't-mesh dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Back over Thanksgiving, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit (ICE) made a lot of news by seizing over 80 domain names. While many of these involved sites that sold counterfeit products, five of the domains involved copyright issues. Four of them involved hiphop-related blogs — including ones that hiphop stars like Kanye West and others used to promote their own works, and the last one was a meta search engine that simply aggregated other search engines. Weeks went by without the owners of those sites even being told why their domains were seized, but the affidavit for the seizure of those five sites has recently come out, and it's full of all sorts of problems. Not only was it put together by a recent college graduate, who claimed that merely linking to news and blog posts about file sharing constituted evidence of copyright infringement, it listed as evidence of infringement songs that labels specifically sent these blogs to promote. Also, what becomes clear is that the MPAA was instrumental in 'guiding' ICE's rookie agent in going after these sites, as that appeared to be the only outside expertise relied on in determining if these sites should be seized."
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DHS Seized Domains Based On Bad Evidence

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  • Cops lie (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Cops lie. News AT 11. Cry me a river.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:11PM (#34621720) Homepage Journal

    I want to know the identity of this rookie college moron.

    I also want to know which college trained him, so I can make sure to tell everybody to avoid that garbage establishment.

    Next, since this was based upon false evidence, I want to see him, and those responsible for handling him, sued into oblivion.

    This shit is getting to a breaking point.

    • Andrew T. Reynolds (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:16PM (#34621768) Journal
      What are you blind? It's all over the affidavit document [nytimes.com]. Andrew T. Reynolds swears that it's all true. First line of the document.
      • by Khyber (864651)

        No, I want the EDITORS AND SUBMITTERS TO DO THEIR FUCKING JOB AND PUT THE RELEVANT MATERIAL IN THE GODDAMNED SUMMARY.

        Is that really, really, really too much to ask for? Seriously? Is it too fucking much to ask that someone follow some basic rules of journalism?

        Oh, wait, this is slashdot.

      • by Skapare (16644)

        Oh wow ... he signed it as "Special Agent". I wondered where all the special people went. I wonder if he knows the "Special" agent that bungled the telco seizure from last year in Dallas that Slashdot just recently duped on us.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:29PM (#34621934) Journal
      Your anger is directed in the wrong direction. You should be looking at the judge who signed the court order. The various police forces are expected to make mistakes on occasion, that's why they have to go to a judge to get a court order before this kind of action. The judge failed to do his job, and so should be disbarred and possibly subject to other penalties.
      • by jbolden (176878)

        There definitely should be an investigation.

      • Seriously, it's right there on the affidavit. On top of that you can let the court know in a (circa 1993) web form [uscourts.gov] what you think or contact Nagle's Deputy Courtroom Clerk yourself [uscourts.gov]. Case number 10-2822M for your reference since the affidavit seems to be unable to be viewed by some.

        You're an American citizen and you have the right to know who these people are that are making these decisions whether it be a judge or special agent. And they shouldn't have any fear of putting their name on these documents if they think it's right. I agree with you though that maybe it's not within their capacity to serve this position should they get something so painfully wrong.

        I want countersuits and I want liabilities awarded to the defendants that rival the bullshit astronomical numbers that the court sends out to NASA for computation when the MPAA/RIAA wins. I hate that if the MPAA/RIAA wins it's eighty billion dollars but if the individual is exonerated it's a benjamin tops for having their webserver down. That is bullshit.
        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:47PM (#34622182) Journal

          You're an American citizen

          I've no idea why you'd think that, but the British spellings in my posts might be a hint that I'm not...

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by ya really (1257084)

            You're an American citizen I've no idea why you'd think that, but the British spellings in my posts might be a hint that I'm not...

            Your anger is directed in the wrong direction. You should be looking at the judge who signed the court order. The various police forces are expected to make mistakes on occasion, that's why they have to go to a judge to get a court order before this kind of action. The judge failed to do his job, and so should be disbarred and possibly subject to other penalties.

            I dont see anyt

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by hercubus (755805)
            You're commenting psuedo-authoritatively on an American case on an American website - why ever would anyone think you're not British? I mean American?!?
            I fail to detect any obvious clues from this thread that you're British. Perhaps your true colours are centred on some other postings?
            Okay, you're spelling and grammers are swell, that's a clue your not American, but come on, you could have also been Jamaican or Canadian.
            Canada FTW!
        • by Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Monday December 20, 2010 @10:50PM (#34624280) Journal

          I'm not sure we're American citizens any more. I know this is not the country I grew up in.

          I sometimes look around and wonder. Sometimes it feels like I'm the last American left.

      • by debrain (29228)

        The judge failed to do his job, and so should be disbarred and possibly subject to other penalties.

        Some trivia:

        A Judge is "removed". A lawyer is "disbarred".

        Judge is to job as lawyer is to status (relationship: "has a").

      • The various police forces are expected to make mistakes on occasion

        Letting the guy making the complaint define for you what is the law is more than a mistake, it's a philosophical aberration.

      • The larger issue is why was DHS involved instead of the local sherrif? If I have a business dispute and am allowed by the court to sieze property in a warehouse I get the local sherrif to enforce the order and pay him his fee. Once again corporatism at the federal level results in misuse of government enforcement powers.
    • also blame the higher ups who oversaw this but it seems in mass cases a few also go down useing very weak evidence now what with that rookie listed www.google.com

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Monday December 20, 2010 @07:13PM (#34622496)
      Aren't there criminal charges for providing false evidence?
    • by dbIII (701233)
      He or she will be as unaccountable as the idiot that decided to punish an airline and everyone who had the misfortune of being on the same flight as Cat Stevens by redirecting their flight for "security reasons". They are unaccountable spooks that can even decide to have a policy of groping people without having to ask the government if they can break laws that apply everywhere apart from airports. Government is damned if they attempt to control them and damned if they don't, so they just hope not much ge
    • by Stargoat (658863) *

      I'm just wondering when DHS actually cared about evidence. I've never seen anything from that unpatriotic anti-American organization that would make me think it even approaches Constitutional (or moral).

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:11PM (#34621724) Journal
    From the NYTimes article:

    The agent also said the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade groups for the major film studios and record labels, had confirmed that the music and movies on the sites had not been released with the authorization of their copyright holders.

    Yeah, after some poking around I found PROTECTING U.S. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OVERSEAS: THE JOINT STRATEGIC PLAN AND BEYOND [ice.gov] presented to a House of Representatives committee. In it they talk about the sting and the lengthy history of their actions:

    We worked with many different agencies - including CBP, DOJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and the Government of Mexico’s Treasury and Customs – and industry, including the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), to target importers and distributors of counterfeit goods. This operation was specifically timed to coincide with U.S. and Mexican consumers’ increased purchasing during the winter holiday season.

    Then later:

    Representatives from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and RIAA assisted participating customs authorities with focused training, targeting and analyses of certain interdicted parcels. This operation was specifically timed by the IPR Center to coincide with the movie industry’s summer releases, when the biggest blockbusters are illegally recorded, reproduced on DVDs, shipped around the world and sold on street corners and in other markets.

    There's plenty of interesting tidbits in this lengthy document about how everybody's getting involved -- even China [wired.com]:

    ICE previously worked with China in September 2003 when ICE initiated Operation Spring, a joint IPR investigation by ICE agents and Chinese authorities that resulted in the extradition and conviction of DVD pirate Randolph Guthrie, who was sentenced to 48 months incarceration and ordered to repay $878,793 in restitution to the MPAA.

    And the American sports associations:

    Earlier this year, the IPR Center partnered with the NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA, industry and local law enforcement to conduct operations targeting counterfeit sports merchandise sold during the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, Stanley Cup championship, and NCAA Final Four and Frozen Four tournaments. These operations resulted in seizures of over 14,000 counterfeit items valued at more than $760,000.

    Personally I hope DHS and ICE get their asses handed to them over the music blogs. Turn that into freedom of speech and take those bastards to the cleaners. They aren't going to learn their lesson if this is just a court case that exonerates the defendant and I hope the defendants have enough cash to to fight back, or seek help from the EFF.

    The frequency of these MPAA/RIAA related stings is really [ice.gov] ramping up [ice.gov]. I hope ICE and IPR aren't turning out to be directional attack dogs for corporations. The numbers on these things [ice.gov] seem a tad bit inflated but haven't they always been?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How the hell can US justify $800k damages to the internationally extradited head of a DVD piracy ring, and $1.5M to someone for downloading a few MP3s?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by careykohl (682513)

      Well, lets see, from the affidavit...

      RapGodFathers.com and RMX4U.com both had forum sections labeled "Bootlegs" and "Appz" with admin written descriptions stating they were for the posting of links to illegally shared content. So they were encouraging copy right violations.

      Torrent-Finder.com appears to be entirely clear of any wrong doing based on what is in the affidavit. Every piece of "evidence" came from some other website and Torrent-Finder presented it as news without any editorial comment being n

  • Can I prevail on someone with a legal background to tell us whether you can sue the FBI for damages when they hurt your business due to negligence in their investigation (as in going off half-cocked)?

    • Sorry. I mistyped. DHS, not FBI.

      • by sexybomber (740588) <boccilinoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 20, 2010 @07:35PM (#34622682)

        No, you can't sue the DHS, or the government in general, because of a most pernicious doctrine called "sovereign immunity." Since the government created the courts and endows them with legitimacy, you can't use its own courts against it, except in very limited circumstances. (It's like dividing by zero, sort of.)

        However, if an agent of the government uses his/her position to commit a crime, you can sue the agent him/herself, but not their employer. (Of course, that's no guarantee that the suit won't get tossed, only that you can, in fact, proceed with it.) Also, if they use the apparatus of the government for purposes of racial discrimination, they can also be sued. But generally, no, you can't sue.

        WIkipedia explains it in more detail: linky [wikimedia.org]

        • My wife successfully sued a part of the DHS for failing to process her background check within the time period required by law. There was no discrimination or anything else like that, just a paperwork backlog. I agree that in the present circumstance a lawsuit would be unlikely to be successful, but I think "You can't sue the DHS....except in very limited circumstances" might be misleading as a generalization.

        • Interesting, I would have thought the ONE country that would allow the people to sue the government would be the US. You know land of the free and all that... Suing the government happens here in Australia and the UK all the time. In fact there is a great movie about it, The Castle [imdb.com].
        • by pongo000 (97357)

          However, if an agent of the government uses his/her position to commit a crime, you can sue the agent him/herself, but not their employer.

          Even then, there are broad exclusions that protect certain federal employee classifications from lawsuits provided the harm was not caused by the employee's gross negligence. For instance, air traffic controllers (FAA employees) cannot be sued for their actions (for instance, here's an article [nytimes.com] about an air traffic controller that confused two aircraft and ended up killin

  • by societyofrobots (1396043) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:16PM (#34621774)

    It appears they forgot the whole 'checks and balances' thing when enacting a powerful censorship law. I'm not even sure what the 'Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement' has to do with copyright enforcement.

    But hey, already found a scapegoat, a 'fresh college graduate' who'll be labeled as over-zealous while those actually in charge zip by.

    • I'm not even sure what the 'Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement' has to do with copyright enforcement.

      If the items breaking copyright come from outside the US, the ICE in its "Customs Enforcement" role has a job to keep it out. Now, whether or not there was proper evidence (or even a bit of checking) before this raid occurred is certainly an issue, but the ICE does have the right (and perhaps the responsibility) to do this.

  • What is ICE doing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:25PM (#34621884) Homepage

    ICE's job includes enforcing laws regarding the immigration and hiring of aliens.

    Lets see, Nicky Diaz, former housekeeper to Meg Whitman, admits on national television that she forged documents and is in this country illegally.

    Many employers hire illegal aliens.

    Millions of illegal aliens in the country.

    States, have enacted their own laws because ICE is not doing its job.

    But.....ICE can shut down sites that it thinks might be violating copyright law.

    Yes, ICE can't do their job, but they can be given more responsibility.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      ICE has different groups with different responsibilities. The one you're talking about is Immigration (formerly INS). The one that this probably falls under is Customs (formerly U.S. Customs). They're different groups under a single organization.

      • Customs' duty is still to inspect and/block illegal/controlled items arriving into the USA through its borders.

        How is a domain name or files located on a server pointed to a domain name crossing the border?

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          Beats me, but this still is far more likely to fall under customs than immigration, which are still separate groups.

  • by jbolden (176878) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:31PM (#34621952) Homepage

    I really hope the Republicans make a civil rights issue out of this. Using Homeland security for copyright enforcement? Forget about the fact that they were incompetent, even if they had gotten this right it was way way out of line.

    • by Haedrian (1676506) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:47PM (#34622168)

      Filesharing leads to communism
      Communism leads to extremism
      Extremism leads to terrorism

      Support your local Homeland Security today!

    • I really hope the Republicans make a civil rights issue out of this.

      LOL! You're a funny guy.

      Wait. You were serious?

      Oh, dear.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 20, 2010 @07:37PM (#34622710)

      I really hope the Republicans make a civil rights issue out of this.

      Yeah, I expect Fox to jump RIGHT on a story about corporations using the government to stomp on people. They'll run it right after the story calling for Shrub to stand trial for war crimes, before the bit about HELL FREEZING OVER.

    • by yelvington (8169)

      I really hope the Republicans make a civil rights issue out of this.

      You must be new on this planet. Welcome to the circus!

    • Nothing will become of it...especially from any republican. The reason...these corporations have enough money and lobbyists to make sure nothing but their way will be the way it is. Welcome to the United States of Facsism...where corporations and their money are the government.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:32PM (#34621970)

    They'll move him out of DNS management and over into drafting Network Neutrality regulation. What can go wrong?

  • What I want to know is why are the people behind these sorts of things so freaking stupid?

    Ever since the MAFIAA started taking actions against pirates the stories of innocents being scooped up in the process have been rampant. Is the MAFIAA so ensconced in power that they really just don't give a shit? Do they believe that such errors pose no threat to their own legitimacy? Or perhaps anyone knowledgeable enough to discern the difference between the clear-cut pirates and the bystanders just isn't sympath

    • Is the MAFIAA so ensconced in power that they really just don't give a shit?

      Yes.

      Do they believe that such errors pose no threat to their own legitimacy?

      Yes.

      Or perhaps anyone knowledgeable enough to discern the difference between the clear-cut pirates and the bystanders just isn't sympathetic enough to the MAFIAA to work with them?

      Also yes.

      Or maybe there are people within the ranks of the MAFIAA that disagree with the entire operation and deliberately set things up give their overlords a black eye?

      Apparently lack of principles is a requirement for promotion over there, so I doubt it.

      I dunno what it is, but you'd think that after 10+ years of this kinda of shit they would have figured out how to do it right.

      Haha, that's a good one, pull the other one!

    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      Simple. They don't care.

      If you're innocent, pay the thousands in court costs and missing time off, and fight it in court. Otherwise just pay the money and nobody is going to get hurt.

      https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/SLAPP [wikimedia.org] - related.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      New laws, a new generation, a name to be made, all the jargon filled in, paper work done and the system spins up.
      If they can get away with this, they can expand, get more funding, get more arrests/body count/domain count? and grow.
      If they dont, they have a 'young' person to offer up.
      Try again next raid with new laws or better paper work.
      They are testing the press and US public. Support terrorism, porn, DMCA hardware, now seized domains - all seems to be a long list of fair game.
      What was once a long term
  • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Monday December 20, 2010 @06:49PM (#34622206) Homepage Journal
    Wait, so you mean that when a punishment was issued without a legal trial, purely at some arbitary person's arbitary decision, things went wrong?!

    We should clearly design some system where one has to be tried before one can be punished.
  • This is what happens when allegedly infringing websites are shut down without so much as a trial, and precisely the reason why laws like COICA are so dangerous. In court you at least have the chance to prove that your actions are not infringing, but in this case the owners of the shut down domains aren't given the chance to establish their innocence in court. If DHS says you're guilty, you're guilty.

    Imagine if the same standard were applied to other alleged offenses. Posted something allegedly obscene? Down

  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Monday December 20, 2010 @07:23PM (#34622584)
    Ok yes I know Immigrations and Customs enforcement. This is a job for the FBI and/or state police etc. From the ICE website "Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)". How the hell did this get to be a national security issue? Yes I understand they are the second largest investigative organization in the US government but before 9/11 they were primarily concerned with illegal immigrants. They don't need to be involved in the investigation (spying) of US citizens and their suspected criminal activities. That's the FBI's job.
    • by Loualbano2 (98133)

      "but before 9/11 they were primarily concerned with illegal immigrants"

      There was no ICE before 9/11. There was no ICE before March of 2003.

      INS is what you are thinking of, they were split up and all three parts were put under DHS along with taking on some new responsibilities.

      Old INS != ICE.

  • Reminds me of the movie "In The Loop" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQrqMkCuHqA [youtube.com]
    with a very young 23 yo. baby-faced aide.
    Strange how with all the cash, computer experts, total network dominance ect. the US gov still needed to fall back on the MPAA for help?
    Then the rubber stamp comment, "most of the reasoning behind seizing the blogs is left out" - welcome to a digital East Germany.
  • Well this is exactly why the founding fathers tried to create due process and an independent judiciary, for dealing with domestic private properties and private persons. These actions clearly should have gone through the courts or at the very least an established agency review process were the owners could present evidence and testify if desired on their own behalf.

    When executive fiat is used to act on individuals and private property there are always going to be these kinds of abuses.

  • Isn't the real root problem here ICANN?

    Attorneys, police, and judges are always going to try and do questionable things. The international root of the internet should not be so beholden to the US government, Move it to Switzerland, and put in place clear rules about what does and what does not constitute valid cause for removing a domain.

    Or follow Peter Sunde's suggestion, and move it all to p2p. [geek.com]
  • by mykos (1627575) on Monday December 20, 2010 @11:26PM (#34624466)
    MPAA was instrumental in 'guiding' ICE's rookie agent in going after these sites, as that appeared to be the only outside expertise relied on in determining if these sites should be seized

    A private police force with public funding...quite a racket they've got going there.
  • by davide marney (231845) * <davide.marney@n e t m e d i a . o rg> on Tuesday December 21, 2010 @09:25AM (#34627208) Journal
    The agent lists the basis for the forfeiture on page 66 of the affidavit. U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2323 [openjurist.org] allows the U.S. government to seize "Any property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part to commit or facilitate the commission of [the following offenses]:" 506 [openjurist.org] of title 17 [openjurist.org], or section 2318 [openjurist.org], 2319 [openjurist.org], 2319A [openjurist.org], 2319B [openjurist.org], or 2320 [openjurist.org], or chapter 90 section 2318 [openjurist.org], 2319 [openjurist.org], 2319A [openjurist.org], 2319B [openjurist.org], or 2320 [openjurist.org].

    I found the affidavit to be pretty sound, and the evidence was fairly damming. I don't think this will ultimately stop the pirates, however, as a close study of the affidavit will give you all the ideas you need to run a pirate site that obeys the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

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