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 user 2010-12-06 at 8:23:34 am Views: 30
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    Courts shut down 82 sites for alleged copyright violations
    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.

    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

    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.

    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.

    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
    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.