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Censorship Government Music Piracy The Internet Your Rights Online

Feds Return Mistakenly Seized Domain 243

bs0d3 writes "Just over a year ago, Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized dozens of domain names as part of Operation in Our Sites. Among them was DaJaz1.com, a site from which Special Agent Andrew Reynolds said he'd downloaded pirated music. But there was a problem. Persistent reports suggested that the songs had been legally provided to the site by record labels for the specific purposes of distribution to fans, a point later raised by Senator Ron Wyden. One 'leak' even came from a boss at a major music label. Today, a year later, their domain was returned. The reason was because there was no probable cause and the site had never actually broken any laws or warranted a seizure. They are back in business and are displaying an anti-censorship, anti-PROTECT IP, and anti-SOPA banner on their website."
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Feds Return Mistakenly Seized Domain

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  • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @03:56PM (#38307780)
    U.S. seizing domains of other nationals is bad as it is, but then they don't even research if there's actually anything illegal hosted? They just see mp3 downloads and assume it's copyright infringement and because it isn't big name site, just steal the domain without even contacting the owner. Is their tactic to make domain seizing look better by abusing things so much that the actual seizing part feels "light" compared to their other abuses?

    If the content bothers U.S. so much, why don't they just create national firewall like China does? Why do they step on other nationals rights and speech?
  • Brilliant Banner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:00PM (#38307848)
    The design, wording and overall presentation of that banner is brilliant. The site appears to have been (hopefully briefly) slashdotted. But they have an emblem for "American Censorship Day" across from one for the "Great Firewall". Fantastic juxtaposition. Bravely and skillfully done all around - to post this just after having gotten the domain back.
    • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:24PM (#38308978)

      The design, wording and overall presentation of that banner is brilliant. The site appears to have been (hopefully briefly) slashdotted. But they have an emblem for "American Censorship Day" across from one for the "Great Firewall". Fantastic juxtaposition. Bravely and skillfully done all around - to post this just after having gotten the domain back.

      The video is pretty cool too. Not only is it informative but hopefully the graphics help the average person that doesn't understand.

      Not that I think it will work, or that I think the average american will do anything other than just shrug when one of us talks about copyright reform.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:51PM (#38309316)

      Well, brave... I guess they can be quite brash right now, I guess it would cause a shitstorm if they had their domain hijacked AGAIN.

    • by Idbar (1034346) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:54PM (#38309898)
      I'm guessing while their domain was seized, the workers/developers had plenty of time to design the banner. Hopefully, they'll see their time paid back.
  • Just Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlastfireRS (2205212) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:02PM (#38307880)
    It's an absolute travesty that it took nearly a year to have this domain returned. A lot of people make their livelihoods from their websites; domains are brands, and the government erroneously damaged these guys' ability to operate. I'd recommend seeking damages if the website was a source of income; even if it wasn't, something needs to be done to prove the point that a little more thought and due process needs to occur before arbitrarily taking things down.
    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:19PM (#38308120)

      Indeed, the first thing I wondered was if they have a method to seek damages or if it falls under some law that gives the government immunity against lawsuits where they plain get it wrong - like here.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:49PM (#38309300)

        What if they do? Let's ponder for a moment, what would change if they sued (and let's even imagine they won).

        Nothing. They would still hijack domains at will, they would still be at the beck and call of the RIAA. Why? Well, duh, why not?

        When you sue me (successfully) for damages when I fuck up, I have to cough up dough. That hurts me. And hence I'll do my best not to fuck up again. Why should they? Does it hurt them? Umm... do you think the compensation for the wronged party would come out of their budget? Or out of your pocket?

        Suing a government agency with the goal to make them stop fucking up doesn't work, plain and simple. They don't lose money that way. Government agencies have a budget for ... well, everything. And that's calculated according to (perceived) need, not depending on what "revenue" that agency creates. Fuck, if government agencies had to be profitable, 99% of them would have been shut down before your grandparents were born. And the rest would have never been created.

        So if they have a budget of X and now get sued for Y, they won't have a budget of X-Y next year. They'll have a budget of X, and you, along with the rest of the taxpayers, have to cough up Y bucks.

    • by pavon (30274) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:30PM (#38308304)

      I agree with you that this is a complete travest. However, I would be very surprised if they got any results in court.

      The courts have long held that as long as the government has a warrant they can seize any property, freeze any bank accounts, and demolish anything they want in the course of an investigation and don't have to provide any compensation if it turned out you were innocent. Even if you were never suspected of a crime, your property was only tangentially related to the investigation, and seizing it will make you destitute they can still take it, hold it for as long as they want and not pay you a dime. Thank you war on drugs.

    • by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:34PM (#38308372) Homepage Journal

      Oh, I completely agree that it's wrong, and I'd argue that in such cases that the website owners and employees should all be entitled to compensation equal to industry-typical (for the area they're operating from) wages for a year plus typical bonuses and other profits.

      My fear is that the government will successfully claim sovereign immunity on the grounds that the seizure was done by a government employee on government time for purposes the government considered at the time to be correct. (Malicious, perhaps, senseless, definitely, but correct according to their way of thinking.) Sovereign immunity is used way too much in these sorts of cases and there should be serious consideration to revoking it entirely. Sadly, since it is the sovereign power that gets to decide whether or not it has immunity, that doesn't strike me as a likely proposition. (Sovereign Immunity is a relatively modern legal convenience that has no rational basis in a free society.)

      • by NormalVisual (565491) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @07:03PM (#38309990)
        And to expand on that, the "government" as an entity should probably be held liable less often than the specific cogs that enabled such an injustice to take place. If you take away the expectation of certain immunity that a cop, prosecutor, or judge has for the consequences of improper actions, and take away the Nuremburg "I was just following orders" defense, they'll start to behave better.
  • by magsk (1316183) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:03PM (#38307912)
    They should sue them for as much as possible (I know I will be paying for it as a tax payer), they need to be taught a lesson which will make them more careful and rethink their practices.
    • by Galestar (1473827) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:05PM (#38307926)
    • by Freddybear (1805256) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:53PM (#38308626)

      Two words: sovereign immunity. It's almost impossible to prove the conditions required to successfully sue the government.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_immunity_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

      In the United States, the federal government has sovereign immunity and may not be sued unless it has waived its immunity or consented to suit. See Gray v. Bell, 712 F.2d 490, 507 (D.C. Cir. 1983). The United States has waived sovereign immunity to a limited extent, mainly through the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waives the immunity if a tortious act of a federal employee causes damage, and the Tucker Act, which waives the immunity over claims arising out of contracts to which the federal government is a party. The Federal Tort Claims Act and the Tucker Act are not as broad waivers of sovereign immunity as they might appear, as there are a number of statutory exceptions and judicially fashioned limiting doctrines applicable to both. Title 28 U.S.C. 1331 confers federal question jurisdiction on district courts, but this statute has been held not to be a blanket waiver of sovereign immunity on the part of the federal government.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:15PM (#38308880)
        See my comment above. It is not necessary to SUE the government. Government officials can be criminally prosecuted under 18 USC 242. This was a statute passed by Congress that was specifically aimed at government officials who abuse the law, and nobody is immune.

        So far in 2011 there have been 41 prosecutions under 18 USC 242, and of those, there have been 39 convictions.

        By the way, I should also point this out: although not long, the wording of the statute can be a bit confusing. What it says is that depriving anyone of their Constitutional rights for any reason falls under the law, PLUS treating people differently due to race or alien status. The law does not just apply to discrimination cases.
      • by idontgno (624372) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:26PM (#38309652) Journal

        Sovereign Immunity wasn't an impediment in the canonical example of a lawsuit about technology-related unlawful seizure: Steve Jackson Games v. United States Secret Service [wikipedia.org]; The Federal Tort Claims Act [wikipedia.org] probably provided the rationale to waive sovereign immunity in this case, since it was the tortuous actions of agents of the Secret Service which were the heart of the case.

        This case was the genesis of the EFF.

        To recap: SJ Games was raided in early 1990 on unsubstantiated claims of possession of stolen proprietary "telephone system hacking" information. (i.e., interstate theft and wire fraud). The affidavit [sjgames.com] supporting the warrant was sealed at the request of the Secret Service until October of that year, so SJ Games didn't even know what it was really being raided for.

        Some of the seized goods (hardware, documents) were returned within that year, but not all; I'm not sure if all of it ever was.

        SJ Games filed suit to "to redress violations of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. 2000aa et seq; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, as amended, 18 U.S.C. 2510 et seq and 2701 et seq; and the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution." in May of 1991 and won the judgment in March of 1993.

        To borrow the central conceit of the Battlestar Galactica retread series: "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."

    • by kawabago (551139) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:28PM (#38309040)
      They are government after all, they have little more intelligence than zombies. Haven't you been to DMV?
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:43PM (#38309216)

      So, essentially, you're saying that you want to pay more taxes?

      You don't think that them suing (and possibly winning) would put a dent into their budget, do you? You foot the bill, you just pay more. Or we cut back on healthcare, social services, education or any other unnecessary tidbits.

  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:42PM (#38308474)

    Can't they sue for the loss of business and or freedom of speech?

    Could the federal government put you in Guantanamo and then release you a year later and just say... sorry

    Where is the compensation for undeserved and unreasonable abridgement of you life, liberty and property?

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:43PM (#38308482) Homepage

    "Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized dozens of domain names as part of Operation in Our Sites. Among them was DaJaz1.com, a site from which Special Agent Andrew Reynolds said he'd downloaded pirated music."

    This is what happens when domains are seized on the basis of mere accusations. Instead of the government having to prove that a website's operators are guilty of copyright infringement, the claim alone is enough for the feds to seize a domain that will only be returned either as a gesture of "good will" or if the website's operators can prove they are innocent of that which they haven't been formally accused. Those responsible for such a policy should be ashamed of themselves and their perversion of justice.

  • Mistakenly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tofof (199751) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:43PM (#38308484)
    To be clear, it wasn't "mistakenly" seized. It was wrongfully seized. ICE knew exactly which domain it had seized, and denied any wrongdoing for more than a year. This wasn't the result of a typo on a list or anything else that could possibly warrant* calling this a mistake.

    It's not as if the feds got back from their domain seizing spree and the wife said "Honey, I told you to pick up Diet DaJaz1.com!"

    Not the only "warrantless" event in this situation, either.
  • by Roogna (9643) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @04:52PM (#38308622)

    While they killed a legitimate domain and business for a year. If it had actually been an illegal site, it would most likely have been up and available on another domain/site/host within 24 hours.

    I don't know why they are wasting tax payer dollars on any of this.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:15PM (#38308890) Homepage Journal

    So were they compensated for the loss of a year of revenue and perhaps 'missing the boat' ?

  • by burisch_research (1095299) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:33PM (#38309078)

    Gives me a massive warning in my browser. Seems the antivirus companies just accept what they're told? Time for them to update their definition for this site.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:38PM (#38309148)

    The feds can cash in any domain and if it was "by mistake", they just say "whoopsie, sorry" a year later?

    With this strategy, you can silence any kind of webpage. In the world of the internet, a year is an eternity. Something that was gone for a year can as well start over with a new domain name. The only difference is in the point of time when they can start rebuilding, instantly with a new domain name vs. a year from now with the old one.

  • by AZURERAZOR (472031) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:43PM (#38309218)

    Call or contact your Senator!

    Senate Contacts [senate.gov]

    Call or contact your Representative!
    House Contacts [house.gov]

    Get involved another way?
    EFF is a good way [slashdot.org]

  • by Great_Geek (237841) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @08:13PM (#38310572)
    The Bad Guys (that is, the record labels acting through the government) shut down the site for a year. This is a WIN for the bad guys no matter how you look at it. Why are people celebrating? Heck, the lawyer can't even be sure of getting notices of extensions??? What kind of banana republic is this? If they (the Bad Guys, see above) can do this at will, and it increasingly looks like they will be buying the laws they want, then USA has a whole new kind of copyright that is completely different from any old ideas of rights and fair use. Enough lobbying money having been spent - Let the era of CopyWrong begin.

"The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults." -- Peter De Vries