Congressional Reps Question Feds Over Botched Domain Seizures

from the will-we-get-answers dept

The government’s admission that it had (once again) mistakenly seized and censored a website for over a year when it dropped its case against Rojadirecta/Puerto80 has reminded everyone that Dajaz1 was not an isolate case. It was a part of a wider program where DHS (via ICE) and the DOJ systematically believed whatever the RIAA and MPAA were telling them, leading to the blatant censorship of a variety of websites, without proper due process. Thankfully, some in Congress are paying attention. Bipartisan Congressional Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Jason Chaffetz and Jared Polis have teamed up to send a letter raising a number of questions about Operation in Our Sites, to both Attorney General Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano.

The letter doesn’t even mention the Rojadirecta case, but focuses on what happened with Dajaz1, pointing out their concern with the program, and how it appears to violate free speech rights, ignore due process and destroy legitimate businesses. The letter raises the fact that Dajaz1 is not an isolated case. As we’ve pointed out in the past, we’re aware of at least a few other domains that were seized, and whose owners had challenged the seizures. And yet, well over a year later, there appeared to be no evidence of either a return of those domains or a forfeiture process started. Given how the feds treated Dajaz1, with secret extensions, preventing Dajaz1 from representing itself in court, we’ve wondered how many other domains the DOJ and ICE had incorrectly and illegally seized — and which they were now keeping in that kind of holding pattern. It’s good to see that this letter directly asks about that issue:

Other complaints have been raised by websites seized under “In Our Sites” that bear similarities to the Dajaz1 case. These complaints center around unnecessary delays in advancing and resolving cases, difficulty in obtaining documents from the government that are fundamental to the underlying cases (such as affidavits), and difficulty even maintaining contact with the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the cases. The effect of these problems is to severely limit the ability of website owners to challenge the legality and merits of the domain name seizures.

The letter goes on to ask a series of important questions for both DHS and DOJ, especially regarding the utter failure of both departments in the Dajaz1 situation.

  1. What is the process for determining which sites to target? Who is involved in that process? What specific steps do DOJ and ICE take to ensure that affidavits and other material are thoroughly reviewed for accuracy prior to seizing a domain?
  2. To what extent are government agents required to evaluate whether the potentially infringing material to which target sites link — or which they host themselves — are non-infringing fair uses, impliedly licensed, and/or de minimis uses?
  3. Do government agents consider whether a site complies with the DMCA safe harbors? If so, how does this affect the determination to target a site?
  4. How many sites have attempted to retrieve their domains, via any process, judicial or informal, and what is the status of those cases?
  5. Have you made any changes to your domain seizure policies or their implementation as a result of the issues arising from the Dajaz1 seizure or any other seizure? If so, what were those changes?
  6. What specific steps has the DOJ and ICE taken to ensure that domain name seizure cases proceed without unnecessary delays, and that website owners seeking to restore their domain names have swift access to the officials and documents necessary to resolve their cases?
  7. How many more seizures do you anticipate occurring in the next six months and year?

It seems to me that questions four and five are the key ones here, which means I fully expect DOJ and ICE to be especially non-responsive in whatever answers they provide.

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Comments on “Congressional Reps Question Feds Over Botched Domain Seizures”

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Anonymous Coward says:


A system (a new internet, if need be) will be devised where NO government is capable of seizing domains, period.

Perhaps governments could still BLOCK them if in their own countries if they must (politics will settle that one). But seize them? Never!

Governments are never non-partisan. In some countries, they are outrageously partisan.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Expected response(s)

1) “We regret to inform you that the information you are seeking cannot be disclosed due to national security reasons.”

2) “We regret to inform you that the information you are seeking does not exist.”

3) “We’ll get back to you on that.”

4) “Unfortunately we are currently waiting for relevant information to be forwarded to us, but as soon as it is, we’ll make sure to send you a copy.”

5) “Lemme talk to my boss, I’m sure with a little convincing he’ll agree to give you what you’re looking for, and at a good price.”

Anonymous Coward says:

So congress is asking two that have proven to have serious moral issues what their stances and reasons are? PLUEZE…

Just as well go ask a pedophile if he diddles kids. Straight forward answers aren’t in the cards. Anymore than ICE has been straight forward in these seizure cases.

The whole thing is typical of government actions in these days and times. It’s not what the law says…it’s what we think we can stretch it to say. As long as we don’t tell you what that is, we’re good.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s a major problem in the US concerning domain seizures and obviously everyone in IT knows this. EFF link Now I’m trying to preach, but this is imho greatly effecting DNSSEC implementation which is rather low for .com and .net TLDs: ICANN link. The reasons could be debatable, but I’m rather certain about every registrar is offering DNSSEC, but the customers are not using them. In fact even doesn’t run a DNSSEC record. I’m sure though if you contacted ActionWeb they would provide you a key.
The effects of this are rather simple, since fear drives people away from implementing security, the real threats continue. In other words, we are sacrificing simple copyright infringement with gross embezzlement by organizations that impersonating financial accounts. This sadly however is a global problem, since DHS/ICE is not only endangering US citizens but everyone on the web.

Anonymous Coward says:


Amongst you freeloaders, all copyright enforcement is bad. You will never accept any copyright enforcement under any circumstances. That’s how extremists roll and that’s why you get private industry agreements instead. The opportunity for a reasonable discussion culminating in copyright enforcement with some elements of judicial oversight and due process are out the window and instead you are going to get the private sector’s version instead. And the Republicans aren’t going to help you. Have you seen their IP platform? They want to hand over the Internet to the private sector. Bye-bye net neutrality. Hello to tiered pricing, throttling, deep packet inspection, six strikes, search engine demoting, payment processor and ad network cut offs. Then before long VPN’s will come under attack by requiring some sort of justification or licensure like concealed weapons. The same sort of roadblocks will take place with encryption. Both in the name of “network security” and/or national security. The stupid, ill-considered, visceral reaction of a bunch of misguided zealots is going to culminate in getting the exact opposite result. And Google and your other “friends” have already sold you out. They want to play in the content space because it is their future too. And they are steadily moving to embrace the content producer’s outlook. How is consigning infringing sites to Google-oblivian materially differ from the SOPA proposal to delist them entirely? What difference is there for the top three pirate sites from going from the front page to being randomly sprinkled on pages 43, 68 and 106 and being removed entirely? Damn little to none. The only real difference is now it’s done without any judicial oversight, only some obscure formula involving DMCA notices. Net neutrality is on practical life support. If the republicans hold their ground or make inroads, Julius Genachowski’s testicles will be in a jar on Boehner’s desk and net neutrality will be a fading memory. Comcast owns NBC/U and produces tons of content. In a world of decreased regulation, how long do you think it will be before they decide that ANY infringing streaming is a network management issue and throttle it down to dial-up speed? ATT and Verizon will ultimately become bigger players in content and embrace the same mindset. You really have no idea where this is headed and how much the mindless, unyielding position has contributed to a situation that will prove far worse than it needed to be.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Sorry, which enforcement effort have they not criticized.

I don’t see them criticizing all sorts of enforcement. Between the three of them I’ve only seen two criticisms raised: SOPA and Dajaz1. Certainly Lofgren, by herself, has raised a few other issues, but there are lots of enforcement efforts that she sees as just fine.

To claim that the 3 of them criticize every enforcement effort is ridiculous and wrong.

I guess when you have no argument, you resort to lying, huh?

Anonymous Coward says:

as long as the Bipartisan Congressional Reps dont expect to get any answers, i am sure they can ask as many questions as they like. you only have to look at the responses NOT received from Attorney General Holder when asked questions by Lofgren in the past. if they expect anything better from him or from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, i think they are living in fantasy land. everyone knows that the US law enforcement can do what they like, that Congress are not in charge of any of the agencies, they are all run by the entertainment industries. look again at the ‘revolving door’ between the government positions previously held by those now employed in those industries

Anonymous Coward says:


And that is why there are supposed to be anti-trust lawsuits filed to stop these damn things.

That would mean that infringers would have to come before the US judicial system to litigate. That means they would then be served by every single company for copyright infringement and in some cases arrested. Do you really think that will happen?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So if these efforts are a waste of time, there’s an awful lot of crying and contrived outrage over ineffective measures.

Of course. What you’re missing is that the objection to these measures isn’t really about the impact they may or may not have on piracy. The objection is the collateral damage they do to innocent third parties.

That the measures won’t be effective against piracy in no way means they won’t be harmful.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Why at all?

These are certainly good questions to ask, but I’d rather they first ask why the Government is seizing domain names and if they are allowed to do so. I’ve made this comparison before, but I liken it to seizing the name of a printed newspaper, but leaving all the writers, presses, and delivery trucks alone. In effect making the paper unrecognizable to its readers on the newsstand, not preventing some accused criminal from destroying or selling evidence. This is plainly an effort to silence the accused without hearing not an action to collect or preserve evidence for a coming legal action.

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