Apparently All That Stuff About Needing SOPA To Go After Foreign Sites Was Bogus

from the just-saying dept

Tim covered the story of ICE doing its annual censorship binge in seizing domain names without adversarial hearings (as we still believe is required under the law). However, there were a couple of additional points worthy of a followup. First off, if you remember, one of the key reasons why we were told SOPA was needed was that for all of ICE’s previous domain takedowns it was “impossible” for it to take down foreign domains. Except… as ICE’s own announcement here shows that was completely untrue. It seems to have had no difficulty finding willing law enforcement partners around the globe to seize websites without any due process:

…recognizing the global nature of Internet crime, this year the IPR Center partnered with Europol, who, through its member countries, executed coordinated seizures of foreign-based top-level domains such as .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic and resulted in 31 domain name seizures.

“This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world.

Yeah. Apparently it’s possible for ICE to censor those sites if it actually does a little work and calls up its law enforcement pals. Another example of why SOPA was never necessary in the first place.

The other issue? ICE’s own release shows that ICE appears to have no understanding of the intellectual property laws it’s seeking to enforce. From that release:

During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products; including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods were obtained from federal magistrate judges.

Note the confusion (or ignorance) here. Counterfeits are about trademarks, not copyrights. Most of what they discuss are items covered by trademark. But then they say “if the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit.” Yes, there may be some copyright claims mixed in here (especially with “DVD sets”), but for the most part this is about trademark. Why say “copyright holders” unless you’re either willfully misrepresenting what’s happening… or ignorant of the law you’re supposedly helping to enforce?

We’ve complained before about ICE boss John Morton’s apparent deliberate conflation of copyright and counterfeits in the past — but usually it’s just lumping them together. To confuse the two here, in an official release from a government group that’s enforcing the law, suggests some serious problems. ICE is either ignorant of the law it’s supposedly enforcing… or maliciously misrepresenting itself. That seems like a problem.

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Comments on “Apparently All That Stuff About Needing SOPA To Go After Foreign Sites Was Bogus”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Deja Vu

Actually knock off products can easily have been a copyright issue rather than trademark if the name-tag is purposefully misspelled or the logo is altered enough to not get into Trademark territory.

Then I am obviously alluding to copyright as an inferior IPR to trademarks, but in punishment-land that is not really the case. Oh, no! In other words, they can easily use copyright as the primary reason for seizings since it covers a wider variety of goods than the trademarks laws.

Copyright is a flypaper for any economic or moral offences taken by creators and especially their employers. Trademark is too narrow for most companies to use. Second to trademark is patents, but they cannot be used for anything. Copyright on the other hand…

Therefore I do not think Mike is correct in claiming that it is a trademark issue(tm). On the other hand it would have been logical to think so.

G Thompson (profile) says:

There’s something else strange here when talking about International sites and Trademark law.

Unlike copyright which is basically a worldwide coverage (Berne Convention covers it) Trademark is a per country situation and has to be actually applied for in EACH individual country, There is no worldwide registry (same as patents actually).

So what might be “unlawful” (or counterfeit) in one country is NOT unlawful in another. I don’t think the Mexican iPhone is legal under trademark laws anywhere else in the world other than Mexico, but on the same thing Apple Inc’s trademark on their iPhone is unlawful in Mexico.

This is the whole problem with cross jurisdictional warrants and seizure orders from Federal judges. the ‘copyright’ holder (or IP owner) who resides in the USA has NO nada nix jurisdiction in the rest of the freakin world. And this is even more telling if there is actually NO trademark at all for that product from anyone – like ummm professional sports jerseys and jewellery for example.

out_of_the_blue says:

ICE itself didn't "take down foreign domains"

I note the point because you end up wandering… into complaining that “copyright” covers several somewhat disparate items — when it’s probably just easier for whoever writer to lump them together, NO further significance. But it’s all Mike has for today’s episode of Extreme Semantics.

Meanwhile, Mislabeling Mike blithely mis-uses “censor” when in fact the sites were selling counterfeit goods.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: Re: ICE itself didn't

“No, not allegedly.

There was prima facie evidence of counterfeit goods being sold. It wasn’t a matter of interpretation or open to opinion.”

Not allegedly, huh?

Ever hear of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law”?

Until then, it’s all alleged stuff.

“You’re a slimy piracy apologist and you and all the others here need to do the world a favor and go die in a fire.”

Wow, just wow…

If I saw you, I would punch you in the face.

silverscarcat says:

Re: Re: Re:3 ICE itself didn't

Actually, people went out of their way to avoid pissing me off since I was known for having a violent temper.

I never got a wedgie, had to wear a KICK ME sign and I never had any money stolen from me.

I played defensive lineman in highschool and was on the wrestling team.

You REALLY think I couldn’t deck you for being an asshole?

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I pointed out an interesting

But we are OVER reaching into other nations..
ITS THERE LAWS, that we are trying to change, and According to USA LAW, that is against the law..It was anyway.

Its like going to Taiwan, and spitting on the sidewalk, and being sent to JAIL..

Didnt Sopa DIE??
ICE has NO jurisdiction in OTHER COUNTRIES…lets ask the UN.
Or do we have an international police force?

Yes we can setup our servers to NOT register ANY location outside the USA..not hard. but you will restrict a WHOLE BUNCH/BANK of computers.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

you have rights also..
Until things are made LAW, you retain those rights.
Copyright isnt a LAW. it has many flaws. which makes it invalid..
its not like shooting a person. Its the idea/concept..NOT the real thing.
How would you like to be prosecuted on ‘THOUGHT’, ‘IDEA’?? Even if you made something BETTER.
You shouldnt become a target if you can MAKE something, or make it BETTER..
Do you know how MOST ideas come around? YOU PLAY with what is available. Edison did it..Einstein DID it..
HOW do you restrict INNOVATION? restrict the products of building NEW products. the PARTS, then copyright Everything in your box. You should lookup the copyrights on cellphones..and the lawsuits, and WHO owns what in a cellphone. ITS STUPID.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Simply to refresh my recollection, do you recall where within the amended bill the USG was authorized to seize websites located and registered overseas?

In the manager’s amendment, section 102 defined “foreign infringing sites” which allowed for seizure and forfeiture a la how domestic sites were seized.

And we were told repeatedly that this was necessary since ProIP did not allow them to go after those foreign sites.

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