UK Domain Seizures: Nominet Admits It's Helped Police Seize 3,000 Sites

from the global-issue dept

While we’ve been mostly focused on US-based domain name seizures and attempts to expand them using something like COICA, we’ve also noted that similar issues are being discussed in the UK, where Nominet has now admitted that it’s helped police seize about 3,000 domains based simply upon a request from law enforcement. Unlike the US, there isn’t even a formal process with a judge rubber stamping the requests. Instead, the police ask, and Nominet is compelled to suspend the domain. In fact, some law enforcement officials are claiming that if Nominet refused their requests, then it would automatically become liable. In other words, police have a fantastic tool for censorship of any website if they want to use it that way. What isn’t explained is why law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic are so damn afraid of actually having an adversarial hearing before seizing a domain. If they’re so sure that these sites are illegal, why are they so afraid of facing the site owners in court?

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Comments on “UK Domain Seizures: Nominet Admits It's Helped Police Seize 3,000 Sites”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Because they want to make these moves quietly.
As they get more attention, people begin to ask questions, questions lead to revelations that they were not after a satanic puppy *ahem* band of evildoers.

That a record executive decided he didn’t like that little up and coming indy label. Or the RIAA/IFPI decides they control the rights to music they do not have and demand the server removed from the world.

They are PIRATES! We have to move quickly!

Intellectual Property is the new hot commodity bubble.
It represents trillions of made up dollars, and we need to protect it to keep out countries relevant. Think of all the money we will loose in tax… er wait this campaign contribution has shown me the error of unfairly burdening people who have more money then they will ever need and still have to have more.

What are a few civil rights and the rule of law when there is an unhappy megacorp crying in the wings!

blech

Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Interesting you called IP a commodity.

I agree it is from a certain point of view. But commodities, in the classic sense, are still scarce goods and bought & sold on the open market.

But if IP is, in fact, property as its proponents suggest, you can come up with a CME, NYBOT, ICE, NYMEX style of exchange around it just like the do coffee, sugar, oil, & nat gas.

If you tried, you’d see how quickly the prices would go to zero.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I personally do not call IP a commodity, that is the terminology being used by the congress critters and the “enforcers” of big medias will.

They are trying to turn an idea into a tangible item, and as we have seen with patents – that doesn’t work. They hoard what they “discover” and wait for someone to do something with something they think is vaguely like their vague patent on it then profit. Then they sell access to their hoard, to large companies with nothing better to do than sue each other over the patented idea of stapling on the left edge rather than the top edge. Then after they open their hoard to the other side for a countersuit, all the while extracting money and wasting time.

Media companies lament the trillions of loss caused by that evil website run by the satanic puppy fu*ahem* band of evildoers.
Everyone eats up the story that we are all suffering because Jimmy down the street downloaded a track by that hot unknown Canadian band we won’t name.
HE STOLE IT, IT WAS THEFT.
We all learn from an early age what it is like to be stolen from – someone takes something from you (as well as your sense of well being).
They paint it with these strokes to illicit the proper response from the public.
What they do not mention is even if they got every law they wanted passed, they will still pay little to no taxes into the system. That they will jack the prices up, remove more rights from the people all to protect the all important IP.

To slightly derail to make a very good point –
Do you think, if you were able to go back in time from today to the point the patriot act was being shoveled through, and showed them this is what is going to happen. Do you think it would have mattered? If you showed the people their future, it might have mattered. But so many people are now committed to the idea we have to do this to be safe, they refuse to see the downside. Instead they dismiss people who point out it is pointless, shreds human dignity, and pisses on the Constitution as freedom hating people we should investigate for not being patriotic enough.

They are using the same tactics in their IP is valuable and we must protect it at any cost dog and pony show. They are trying to remove the judicial process so they can get them fast, not mentioning once they have these required “powers” if you point out police abuses, government abuses, or turn some sunlight on the things they are trying to hide – it merely takes a phone call or a post-it to get it turned off.

That the rights of the corporation outweigh the rights of the citizens.

Welcome to the Sixth World Chummer, I’m going to go hide in the shadows again.
Ooooh and now I can be sued for mentioning trademarks from a roleplaying game! Sorry if they turn off your hosting Mike, but the world of Shadowrun is starting to look alot less like fantasy and more like prophecy.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m curious Mike, if an adversary hearing was granted in the the seizures or takedowns of websites, would you then grant that due process was being served?

If an adversarial hearing was held prior to the seizures, yes, I would likely have no more due process concerns (the details may matter, but for the most part, my concern is mainly the timing of the hearing).

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Can you expound on that? By nature an adversary hearing happens before any punitive action. What is it specifically that you are looking for with regard to timing?

I believe I was clear. The hearing should be held before the domain is seized. While you can say that seizing the domain itself is not punitive, you should try talking to those who had their domains seized and believe that they had done nothing wrong. To them, it’s incredibly punitive.

I think it’s pretty straightforward. In cases such as this, there’s simply no compelling reason not to have a hearing for an injunction against the site. Let both sides make their argument and then if the judge agrees with the government or the copyright holder, issue the injunction.

Zimzat (profile) says:

If they’re so sure that these sites are illegal, why are they so afraid of facing the site owners in court?

Because, just like for the site owner and the little guys, it costs them a lot more money to go to court. I doubt anyone is encouraging them to go that route if they have other means available, otherwise guess whose paycheck is getting cut and whose isn’t to pay for these court costs.

Richard (profile) says:

Worth reading

Can I encourage you all to read the Open Rights group page (Mike’s second link above). It explains how things in the UK are in principle worse (although, at present, in practice better) than the US.
Also a comment from Simon Hopkins at the bottom of the page is priceless:

“…Nominet and others are liable under the Proceeds of Crime Act if they do not suspend sites once they are made aware that criminal acts may be taking place on domains…”

Isn’t this similar in principal to saying the same to the Local Authority because the Place Names or Road Signs enable the crime location to be more easily found (better than a map reference, like IP) thus the crime more easily perpetrated?”

drewmerc (profile) says:

you all seem to be looking at this from an American point of view which is understandable. but if it’s a British citizens domain name the police would have already arrested them, if not a quick trip to county court would get it back and a few hundred pounds for your trouble (max ?1000 for suing in county court)and as it’s county court you don’t need a solicitor/lawyer
I’ll bet most of the sites could have been taken down for TOS violations like fake registration info

the only bit that worry’s me is what was taken down

FUDbuster (profile) says:

What isn’t explained is why law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic are so damn afraid of actually having an adversarial hearing before seizing a domain. If they’re so sure that these sites are illegal, why are they so afraid of facing the site owners in court?

They don’t have to explain it. Why should they? They are following the law. They don’t have to justify why they didn’t take some other course of action that they are not compelled to take.

What you have never shown is that a prior adversary hearing is NECESSARY. Nor can you, because it’s not.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They don’t have to explain it. Why should they? They are following the law. They don’t have to justify why they didn’t take some other course of action that they are not compelled to take.”

Introducing Judge FUDbuster!

‘It is the third millenium. The world has changed. Climate, Nations, all were in upheaval. the Earth transformed into a poisonous, scorched dessert, known as “The Cursed Earth”. The world’s population has crowded into a few Megacities, where it created a voilence so powerful, the justice system could not control. Law as we knew it, colapsed. From the decay, rose a new order, a new style of justice enforcers. They were the police, jury and executioner all in one. They were, The Judges.’

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They don’t have to explain it. Why should they? They are following the law. They don’t have to justify why they didn’t take some other course of action that they are not compelled to take.

Right, just like if I was to peacefully resist arrest, the police have a choice to do a few things available to them, they could manually place me under arrest or they smash my skull with billy clubs until I am in a coma and place my limp body under arrest. But, they would eventually have to justify their use of force on me.

What you have never shown is that a prior adversary hearing is NECESSARY. Nor can you, because it’s not.

I would think it’s necessary due to it being a prior restraint issue concerning speech. And what your side has never shown is why couldn’t they have a adversarial hearing, just to make sure there isn’t Constitutional issues.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would think it’s necessary due to it being a prior restraint issue concerning speech. And what your side has never shown is why couldn’t they have a adversarial hearing, just to make sure there isn’t Constitutional issues.

Of course they COULD have a prior adversary hearing. They COULD also order out for Chinese. Who cares? The only relevant issue is whether they MUST. The lengthy history of in rem forfeitures and ex parte seizures suggests that no prior adversary hearing is necessary. The law just doesn’t support your point of view. Should it? Maybe so. Maybe that’s better. But that’s not the point. The point is that the law in fact allows for such seizures on the basis of probable cause alone.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The law just doesn’t support your point of view. Should it? Maybe so. Maybe that’s better.

I agree, maybe it should and maybe it’s time to get the average person talking about these issues.

I guess what really doesn’t sit well with me concerning the domain name seizures (besides the prior restraint thing of course)is the futility of it all and the waste of resources. When a drug runner’s cigar boat is confiscated it really is removing the tool used for crime (and can be used as evidence to convict, to boot), when a domain name is seized, it’s nothing more than a mere short term inconvenience for the site operator and users and really hasn’t stopped anything.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I disagree. It disrupts infringement, and it gets out the message that copyright, trademark, and child porn laws are being enforced by Uncle Sam on the internet. With the addition of COICA, websites that merely shift to a non U.S.-based domain name won’t be able to hide. I think as a deterrent, it is effective. We’ll see.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

With the addition of COICA, websites that merely shift to a non U.S.-based domain name won’t be able to hide.

Maybe, but when they start shifting to a distributed DNS system that is not under any country’s jurisdiction then they absolutely will be able to hide right in plain sight.

I think as a deterrent, it is effective. We’ll see.

I think the only ones it will deter are the legitimate businesses who will think twice about using an US based domain name that ICE/DoJ can seize whenever they wish on nothing more than “probable cause” based on information from obviously biased parties.

It’s certainly not going to deter filesharing at the user level.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I disagree. It disrupts infringement, and it gets out the message that copyright, trademark, and child porn laws are being enforced by Uncle Sam on the internet. With the addition of COICA, websites that merely shift to a non U.S.-based domain name won’t be able to hide. I think as a deterrent, it is effective. We’ll see.

We’ve already seen! Look at operation ORE. The police leapt in with both feet and pursued thousands for child porn – result:
Thousands falsely accused, 39 suicides (I hope you have some words of consolation for their relatives – it is virtually certain that some at least were completely innocent) and cases pursued against innocent people that have cost the police millions in court costs – and will likely cost millions more in compensation before we are done.

I hope you can explain yourself to the poor taxpayer who has to fund all this madness. It was bad enough wen done with relatively solid looking information (although in the end it turned out to be false) in respect of child porn – but when it is done on behalf of private interests it is indefensible.

Following the law of your land at the time is all well and good but in the end it doesn’t wash when you are doing something that combines immorality with stupidity and ( in the latest cases ) greed.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Right, just like if I was to peacefully resist arrest, the police have a choice to do a few things available to them, they could manually place me under arrest or they smash my skull with billy clubs until I am in a coma and place my limp body under arrest. But, they would eventually have to justify their use of force on me.”

Only if someone leaked the video – which would be taken down using the same methods and tools being discussed here. Then it would pop up somewhere else and that would be taken down too, etc …

Anonymous Coward says:

I am waiting to see how long it takes before browsers offer the option of setting bookmarks at the (IP) address level. So once you have a place bookmarked, the domain name could change all it wants without losing access to the site.
Also links that include IP address would also make these guys efforts even more pointless.

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