Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Congress Demands Answers for Homeland Security’s Unjust Domain Name Seizures

Trevor Timm
Electronic Frontier Foundation
September 4, 2012

This morning, a bipartisan group of Representatives, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), sent a pointed letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano protesting the recent spat of domain name seizures—executed on dubious copyright grounds—that have been censoring websites with no due process.

“Our concern centers on your Department’s methods, and the process given, when seizing the domain names of websites whose actions and content are presumed to be lawful, protected speech,” the letter said, which was also signed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut.).

The Representatives’ letter focused on the case of former hip hop website Dajaz1. Dajaz1’s domain name had been seized for over a year, despite evidence that the website had lawful material, and that “many of the allegedly infringing links to copyrighted songs, and specifically the links that were the basis of the seizure order, were given to the site’s owner by artists and labels themselves” including Kanye West, Diddy, and a vice president of a major record label.

Adding to the injustice, the government refused to cooperate with Dajaz1’s attorneys for months, and sought numerous extensions of the seizure authority in secret. When the court records were finally released, it showed that the government was waiting on the RIAA to evaluate a "sampling of allegedly infringing content" and respond to other “outstanding questions.” While the RIAA fiddled, Dajaz1 lost the right to speak and the public lost its right to read what was published there.

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