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 user 2010-12-06 at 8:22:40 am Views: 69
  • #23998


    Courts shut down 82 sites for alleged copyright violations
    Two U.S. government agencies have obtained seizure orders for the domain names of 82 websites accused of selling products that infringe copyright law, including music, movies and handbagsand other consumables .The seizure orders, from courts in eight states and Washington, D.C., have allowed the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to shut down sites including Torrent-finder.com, DVDscollection.com, Sunglasses-mall.com, and NFLjerseysupply.com, officials from the agencies said Monday.News reports of multiple site closures surfaced in the past few days, but officials with the two agencies talked about the actions during a press conference Monday.”With today’s seizures, we are disrupting the sale of thousands of counterfeit items,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. “We are cutting off funds to those looking to profit from the sale of illegal goods and exploit the ingenuity of others. And, as the holiday shopping season gets under way, we are also reminding consumers to exercise caution when looking for deals and discounts online. To put it simply: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”The Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights group, questioned whether the seizures were legal when website operators had no warning and no chance to fight the actions in court. The seizures raise concerns about violations of free speech protections in the U.S. Constitution, said David Sohn, senior policy counsel at CDT.

    A U.S. copyright statute allows law enforcement to seize “any property” used to infringe copyright, but police have generally used the statute to seize manufacturing equipment. Recent efforts to seize domain names under the statute may mean that the DOJ and ICE are shutting down free speech on some of those sites, Sohn said.”Domain names are essentially forums for free expression and communication,” he said. “Obviously, websites can also be forums for illegal activity, but seizing domain names without any [legal] adversary process, without any opportunity for the affected parties to get notice of the action, it carries the risk that legitimate websites and legitimate speech could end up being suppressed.”Sohn also questioned if the tactic would be effective. Many of the sites shut down in recent days may pop up under new domain names, he said.

    Sites targeted by the two agencies displayed a notice on their home pages saying that ICE had seized the domain names. “Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution,” the notices read. “Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to ten years in federal prison, a $2,000,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution.”

    Some commentators questioned the seizure of Torrent-finder.com, a search engine for BitTorrent files that didn’t host any files itself. Another version of the site remained online at Torrent-finder.info Monday morning.

    ICE “went way beyond its mandate to seize a whole bunch of domain names,” wrote Mike Masnick, founder of the TechDirt blog. “Many of the operators of the domain names seized in this round state they hadn’t received any notification of complaints, let alone demands to be taken down.”

    The seizure of search engines is “ridiculous,” Masnick added. “For anyone who actually understands how the internet works (i.e., clearly not Homeland Security) this is a massively troubling move, suggesting that if Homeland Security doesn’t like how your search engine works, it can simply seize your domain and put up a really scary looking graphic, claiming it has taken over your website,” he wrote.

    Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised the action by the DOJ and ICE. The seizures targeted “rogue websites,” said Leahy, who has sponsored legislation this year that would make it easier for the DOJ to shut down infringing websites.

    “The innovative use of the tools currently available to law enforcement to seize these domain names is similar to the remedy that would be specifically authorized under the bipartisan Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act for websites that are registered in the United States,” Leahy said in a statement. “We can no longer sit on the sidelines while American intellectual property is stolen and sold online using our own infrastructure. This costs American jobs, hurts our economy, and puts consumers at risk.”CDT has raised the same concerns about the Leahy legislation that it has for the DOJ and ICE action. The Leahy bill would make it clear that such actions are legal, Sohn said.

    Also cheering the seizures was Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.”Federal law enforcement authorities have now hung a ‘closed for business’ sign on some of the most notorious music websites that were havens for copyright theft,” he said in a statement. “No anti-piracy initiative is a silver bullet, but targeted government enforcement against the worst of the worst rogue sites sends a strong message that illegally trafficking in creative works carries real consequences and won’t be tolerated.”



    U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown
    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 consumable 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 :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.