Feeds

Critics slam feds for 'unprecedented' domain seizure

What would China do?

Boost IT visibility and business value

A vocal chorus of lawmakers and policy wonks are decrying the US government's practice of seizing large numbers of internet domain names without first giving the owners a chance to defend themselves in court.

The latest installment of Operation in our Sites came last week with the seizure of 10 addresses for websites accused of illegally streaming live pay-per-view sporting events. Under the initiative, feds confiscate the internet addresses with no prior warning to the owners, many of whom are located outside US borders.

US Senator Ron Wyden has told Attorney General Eric Holder and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton that the “seizures represent a major shift in the way the US government combats copyright infringement in the digital environment” and warned similar actions could be taken by groups intent on squashing free speech on the net.

“I worry that domain name seizures could function as a means for end-running the normal legal process in order to target websites that may prevail in full court,” Wyden wrote in a letter dated February 2. “The new enforcement approach used by Operation in Our Sites is alarmingly unprecedented in the breadth of its potential reach.”

Wyden peppered the feds with pointed questions, including an accounting of how many of the seizures over the past nine months were accompanied by prosecutions and whether officials take into consideration the laws of the country where the domain name owner is located.

Under the process so far, feds seek an ex parte court order that gives them ownership of the addresses. Owners get no opportunity to argue on behalf of their website until after the domain name is seized. At least 92 domains have been seized under the operation so far.

Civil libertarians have characterized the move as a power grab that could seriously threaten the stability of the internet. If domain names can be shut down because of mere allegations that they violate a single country's laws, there's nothing to stop even more restrictive actions.

“Has ICE considered whether this kind of action effectively gives the green light to aggressive attempts by countries everywhere to try to impose domestic laws on foreign websites?” David Sohn, of the Center for Democracy and Technology blogged. “If that kind of practice became widespread, the impact on the internet and internet-based speech could be dramatic.”

Several pundits have said that one of the affected sites, rojadirecta.org and rojadirecta.com was recently ruled to be operating legally in Spain, where it is headquartered. Operators last week quickly got back online by swapping out the domain names with one that the feds had no jurisdiction over. Operation in Our Sites does nothing to disrupt the underlying servers running the website.

The seizures could also put US-based webhosts and domain registrars at a disadvantage, because feds don't have authority to seize addresses issued by overseas companies. Some torrent information sites are already suggesting that website operators do just that.

For more criticism see this post on The Freedom to Tinker blog. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.