U.S. Government Shuts Down More Than Seventy “Piracy” Web Sites, Seizes Domain Names

Visiting a seized domain reveals this image notifying the user of the domain's seizure.

U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown (New York Times):

In what appears to be the latest phase of a far-reaching federal crackdown on online piracy of music and movies, a number of sites that facilitate illegal file-sharing were shut down this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

By Friday morning a handful of sites that either hosted unauthorized copies of films and music or allowed users to search for them elsewhere on the Internet, were shut down, their content replaced by a notice that said, in part: “This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

In seizing the domain names of the sites, or Web addresses, the government effectively redirected any visitors to its own takedown notice.

“ICE office of Homeland Security Investigations executed court-ordered seizure warrants against a number of domain names,” said Cori W. Bassett, a spokeswoman for ICE, in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation, there are no additional details available at this time.”

Among the domains seized were torrent-finder.com and three that specialized in music: onsmash.com, rapgodfathers.com and dajaz1.com. TorrentFreak, a news blog about BitTorrents — a file-sharing system that has tended to elude the authorities because it is decentralized — said that at least 70 other sites had been seized, most having to do with counterfeit clothing, DVDs and other goods.

On Friday, torrent users were already discussing new sites that had popped up to serve them.

The takedown notices are similar to those that went up on nine sites in June as part of an initiative against Internet counterfeiting and piracy that the agency called Operation in Our Sites.

In announcing that operation, John T. Morton, the assistant secretary of ICE, and representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America called it a long-term effort against online piracy, and said that suspected criminals would be pursued anywhere in the world. “American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates every day, seven days a week,” Mr. Morton said. “Criminals are stealing American ideas and products and distributing them over the Internet.”

Ms. Bassett would not comment on whether the latest raids were part of Operation in Our Sites, and a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major recording labels, declined to answer questions.

The new seizures also come as a new bill, the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is making its way through Congress. The bill, which was approved by a Senate committee last week, would allow the government to shut down sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities.”

Homeland Security shuts down dozens of Web sites without court order (Raw Story):

The Homeland Security Department’s customs enforcement division has gone on a Web site shutdown spree, closing down at least 76 domains this week, according to online reports.

While many of the web domains were sites that trafficked in counterfeit brand name goods, and some others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials, at least one site was a Google-like search engine, causing alarm among web freedom advocates who worry the move steps over the line into censorship.

All the shut sites are now displaying a Homeland Security warning that copyright infringers can face up to five years in prison.

According to a report at TorrentFreak, the search engine that was shut down — Torrent-Finder.com — neither hosted copyrighted material nor directly linked to places where it could be found. Instead, the site opened new windows to sites that did link to file-sharing materials.

“When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield,” writes Torrentfreak, “Unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is.”

As of its last update, Torrentfreak counted 76 domains shut down this week.

Homeland Security’s ability to shut down sites without a court order evidently comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Clinton-era law that allows Web sites to be closed on the basis of a copyright complaint. Critics have long assailed the DMCA for being too broad, as complainants don’t need to prove copyright infringement before a site can be taken down.

1 comment for “U.S. Government Shuts Down More Than Seventy “Piracy” Web Sites, Seizes Domain Names

  1. November 29, 2010 at 7:02 am

    The Department of Homeland Security and ICE are spending time and money investigating this, which has nothing to do with the duties that those agencies are supposed to be performing.

    This diversion of resources means that both agencies are FAILING to do the work that they SHOULD be doing.

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