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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, 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 @04:56PM (#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?
      • It's called incompetence.
        They where shutting people up for unjustified political reason.

        • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:42PM (#38308472)
          "Shutting people up for unjustified political reasons" is censorship!

          The fact that they were also incompetent at it would be pretty much irrelevant, except that now we all know.
          • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:53PM (#38309344)

            Care to give an example for a justified political reason for censorship?

            • Censorship is always justified, just ask the Censor.

      • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:14PM (#38308040) Homepage Journal

        It's destruction of the freedom of speech and private property. Everything else follows.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by akma ( 22089 )

          There is truly no such thing as personal property anyway.... particularly real estate. Fail to pay property tax and you'll be out on the street same as if you fail to pay rent. They may call it something different, but it is the same in effect and result: don't pay your rent, out you go.

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            If you own it free and clear and don't pay, how long until you are "out on the street"?

            And you being too stupid to buy what you want (Allodial title) doesn't change the fact you knew what you were buying when you bought it. Find a place with the title you want, and buy it. I own my fee simple land, even if subject to eminent domain and taxes, it's still not "rent."
          • Well, in USA and Canada and some other countries, but most of the world doesn't have property taxes.

            It's just in US the individual and property rights have been destroyed.

            • Not sure about most of the world, but googling a random selection of reasonably developed countries suggested that there's some form of tax on property for all of them.

              And why should here be absolute rights to land? It was previously a shared resource. One person is monopolising it. If he's going to do that then he's responsible for making sure that the land is put to good use for the people he'd depriving of it.
              • Why should there be absolute right to land? For the same reason why there should be any law that protects personal liberties and rights.

                It's because any possession is an expression of work of an individual and that's what individuals want to protect - fruits of their own labor. USA is on the wrong track. Most of the world does not in fact have property taxes, in Germany we don't pay any, but in fact in Germany it depends from locality to locality, but there are no federal level property taxes and people pr

          • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:59PM (#38309428)

            But it wasn't taken away for not paying the "rent" for the domain. It was taken away for an alleged crime.

            The parallel of having the domain hijacked for alleged copyright infringement with having your home taken away for not paying property tax doesn't work out. Even if you cook up crack in your garage they don't take away your home. Not even if you are convicted. And let's not even go into how much of a suspicion is needed 'til they can actually come and take a look into your garage.

            What happened here was a police raid because they overheard your neighbor complaining about your crack, not knowing that they were just commenting on your negligence when it comes to keeping your pants up.

            • by hoggoth ( 414195 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @08:09PM (#38310046) Journal

              > Even if you cook up crack in your garage they don't take away your home.

              You haven't been paying attention, have you?
              The government CAN AND DOES take away any of your property they want just based on their SUSPICION that you were involved in a crime.
              They call it 'civil asset forfeiture', and with some twisted logic fueled by greed and a total disregard of the rule of law they CHARGE YOUR PROPERTY with committing a crime. The cases have names like: "United States vs. one 1998 Mercedes Benz," and "California vs. 1711 Main Street,"

              From Wikipedia:

              Asset forfeiture in the United States

              There are two types of forfeiture cases, criminal and civil. Almost all forfeiture cases practiced today are civil. In civil forfeiture cases, the US Government sues the item of property, not the person; the owner is effectively a third party claimant. Once the government establishes probable cause that the property is subject to forfeiture, the owner must prove on a "preponderance of the evidence" that it is not. The owner need not be judged guilty of any crime. In contrast, criminal forfeiture is usually carried out in a sentence following a conviction and is a punitive act against the offender. Since the government can choose the type of case, a civil case is almost always chosen. The costs of such cases is high for the owner, usually totaling around $10,000 and can take up to three years.

              The United States Marshals Service is responsible for managing and disposing of properties seized and forfeited by Department of Justice agencies. It currently manages around $1 billion worth of property. The United States Treasury Department is responsible for managing and disposing of properties seized by Treasury agencies. The goal of both programs is to maximize the net return from seized property by selling at auctions and to the private sector and then using the property and proceeds for law enforcement purposes.

              A form of asset forfeiture is roadside forfeiture during a vehicle stop. Usually enforcing State policies by Highway police, local law enforcement have built up seized funds and spent them with oversight only from local judges who sometimes benefit from the expenditures of such funds. The presumption is that travelers hiding large amounts of cash are transporting drug money. Often, the vehicle occupants are required to simply sign a waiver that they will leave the State and not return, thus also not attempt to retrieve their funds. Some complain that this is law enforcement action requires more oversight in order to minimize the impact on travelers who are not involved in drug money but who simply wish to avoid further involvement with law enforcement agents and sign the waiver anyway. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee is investigating the Tenaha, Texas Police seizures scandal.

              The number of federal statutes giving the government the right to confiscate citizens’ assets has nearly doubled since the 1990s, by one count. More than 400 federal statutes allow for forfeiture for a wide range of reasons, including violations of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act.

              Also read:

            • Actually, a more reasonable comparison would be that someone reported your marijuana grow-op, and the feds came in and confiscated your property for a year... without first checking and verifying that you actually had a license to grow medical marijuana.

              The sad thing is that this *shouldn't* be a reasonable comparison, as marijuana is a controlled substance, whereas MP3s shouldn't be. No license should be needed to prove you can host MP3 files; it should be* more like the following:

              Someone reported your co

    • I agree with you, but they probably see it as, "No harm, no foul." No one's dead, right? No one got shot, right? What are we peons complaining about?

      Confiscate first, sort it out later - maybe much later - at the behest of their no-sarcasm-intended corporate masters. Isn't it clear who they're "serving and protecting" in this case? Did any Joe Citizen ask for this type of action? You can't even say, "Think of the children!" because kids certainly aren't being hurt if I upload any old mp3 for them to d

    • by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:08PM (#38307966)

      That's judicial, this executive. They aren't bringing you to court, they're just taking your stuff... which they 'physically' can do. Whether or not they're _allowed_ to do that is certainly a question, but one that needs to be settled in court before you can get it back. And good luck with that.

      Think: It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission (especially if you can claim that no one has standing to make you apologize)

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:08PM (#38307968)

      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?

      cook the frog slowly, my friend. that way you don't realize what's been done to you until its too late.

      there is a firewall in place; but its not physical.


      btw, so much of our nation gets its 'news' from tv and mass media, there IS, in effect, a firewall going on. the lack of real reporting and truth is a kind of information firewall.

      so, yes, we have firewalls of a kind, in the form of a filtered reality. fox leads the way, but the others are also owned by big media and they are also being filtered. at many levels, there is filtering going on. the only way to stay current is to go from the bottom up (blogs, forums, etc) where there is (currently) less control over free speech. all official news outlets, though, stopped being free for longer than I can remember (I'm a greyhair, too, fwiw).

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      But the system worked. It only took a year to get through the courts, and the mistake was rectified. At least, that's what they will say. It worked the way it was supposed to, sadly.
    • If they didn't even have probable cause then the domains wouldn't be seizable even under CIVIL forfeiture laws.

      You know the powers that be are too arrogant for our good when they don't even keep up their own pretenses.

  • Brilliant Banner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:00PM (#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.
    • 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.

    • 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 )
      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 @05:02PM (#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.
    • 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.

      • 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?

    • 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

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Amouth ( 879122 )

        but here they didn't have a warrant - and there wasn't any probable cause.

        This was taken with zero due process - therefor should not fall under previous court rulings.

        • by pavon ( 30274 )

          Yes, they did have a warrant []. There was standard due process, that is, an in-house judge rubber-stamped the request.

          • by Amouth ( 879122 )

            sorry missed that - kept seeing the lack of due process and didn't see that they had a warrant.. although it might be questionable if the warrant should have ever been given.. but i doubt a judge would rule against another judge on that.

            • but i doubt a judge would rule against another judge on that.

              A judge ruling against a judge is the definition of an appeal.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Yup. Even if the prosecutor did it just to get back at you for sleeping with his wife good luck getting anywhere with it. Google prosecutorial immunity...

      • Re:Good Luck (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:03PM (#38308766)
        See United States Code, Title 18, Section 242 (18 USC 242).

        The person who misrepresented probable cause to the judge CAN be prosecuted. Even if it was mere negligence. In fact, even the judge could probably be prosecuted, for signing a warrant that allowed property seizure without sufficient evidence. That statute has real teeth, and there is no exception in 18 USC 242 for judges. They are government officials like any others.
        • And a Judge ends up deciding the case. They're very likely to rule against one of their own.

          • There is that. But it happens.

            In my area, a judge who let another judge get off lightly on a DUI charge, was himself charged with DUI a year or so later. People were so pissed off, they had to throw the book at him or there would have been a riot.

            Remember that laws are supposed to represent the will of the people.
    • by jd ( 1658 )

      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, perha

      • 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 @05:03PM (#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.
    • this
    • Two words: sovereign immunity. It's almost impossible to prove the conditions required to successfully sue the government. []

      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 waive

      • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @06:15PM (#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 @07:26PM (#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 []; The Federal Tort Claims Act [] 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 [] 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."

    • They are government after all, they have little more intelligence than zombies. Haven't you been to DMV?
    • 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.

  • 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?

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

      Yes, they can.

      But they won't.

      Say "sorry, I mean. They might put you in Gitmo for a year, but they won't say sorry afterwards.

  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Thursday December 08, 2011 @05:43PM (#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, 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 @05:43PM (#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!"

    Not the only "warrantless" event in this situation, either.
  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Call or contact your Senator!

    Senate Contacts []

    Call or contact your Representative!
    House Contacts []

    Get involved another way?
    EFF is a good way []

  • 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 ol

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