Feeds

Critics slam feds for 'unprecedented' domain seizure

What would China do?

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.