Feds Seize 46 Domains… And Then Let Them All Expire Two Weeks Later

from the tax-payer-money-at-work dept

We’ve written plenty about our concerns with the federal government seizing domains, sometimes on very questionable evidence. The worst of the worst of this was with the completely bogus seizure of the hiphop blog Dajaz1 — which the government held for over a year, before sheepishly handing it back and never actually filing any lawsuit. There was also, of course, the seizure of Rojadirecta, whose owners actually sued the federal government in response, leading the government to bluster about for a bit, before realizing it was about to get trampled in court and handing back the domain name to get out of the case. Since then, it appears that the government has been at least a bit more careful before seizing some domains (the Megaupload case may be an exception…), but it still seems highly questionable that the government even can seize a domain. The seizure process, remember, is generally supposed to be to prevent evidence from getting destroyed (or hidden), but that’s unlikely with a domain name. Furthermore, there’s a heightened standard for seizures if they could impact free speech rights — and a domain name almost certainly does exactly that.

But, even worse, the feds really seem quite clueless at times in their domain seizing. The latest, as pointed out to us by Paul Keating, is that the feds had seized 46 domains on July 4th. Unlike the other domain seizure cases we’ve discussed, these weren’t about intellectual property issues, but were apparently related to the US government shutting down Liberty Reserve for money laundering. However, there’s an additional oddity. Just two weeks after all 46 of those domains were seized, the feds let them all expire, at which point they went back on the market. The feds, if they had done any investigation, had to know that those domains were about to expire. There was little worry that Liberty Reserve was going to do anything at all with them, seeing as the government had already shut that down. So, why bother seizing the domains just to hold them for two weeks… and then let them expire and go back on the market? Is this really the kind of thing we want our taxpayer funds to cover? Investigating and seizing domain names to release them immediately after?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Feds Seize 46 Domains… And Then Let Them All Expire Two Weeks Later”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Actually it was worse than you portrayed in this article but have thoroughly covered during the event. The Dajaz1 domain was seized for a year and a half. The DOJ had 1 year to gather evidence in which to turn this into a criminal case. At the end of the year, an extension was applied claiming that more time was needed for evidence. This was granted and the extension put under seal and no one including the attorney for the defense could prove that an extension was actually filed for beyond the say so of ICE.

This is yet another example of our government gone rabid. It’s grown beyond all reason into some sort of monster not worthy of the name of a democracy. (not that we have one of those)

Anonymous Coward says:

Might this be a good thing?

Mike – You’ve opposed domain seizures in the past. In this case, the government seized the domain names and got them away from the people accused of crimes. The domains expired, so now they’re back on the market, and other people, including people connected to Liberty Reserve (if they’re not in custody), can acquire them for a pittance and use them. Is that such a bad result? I mean, I see how it could be a bad result in various ways, but is it a worse result than the other botched seizures you have complained about?

Coyne Tibbets says:

Forfeiture (not seizure) of domains

The way the government has used these so-called “seizures” of web domains makes it clear that they consider it more of a “forfeiture” than a seizure. Forfeiture is used to confiscate instruments of a crime; it is not about protecting evidence.

Forfeiture is widely unpopular. But I once read SCOTUS ruling where they didn’t actually rule on its constitutionality but kind of brushed against it. If they ever actually did rule on forfeiture, I think it would be ruled constitutional on the basis of similarity to confiscation of contraband. Contraband is something that is illegal to possess or that is used as an instrument of crime.

So that would make the government’s seizures along the lines of, “You use this domain to commit crimes, so it is contraband and you forfeit it. We don’t care what you do with the files.”

So I don’t like seizure of domains, either, but it’s probably constitutional. Probably less constitutional is the intellectual property theories under which the government concludes that a “crime” is being committed, and that’s where efforts to stop this practice should be directed.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Forfeiture (not seizure) of domains

The problem with that is that seizure of contraband involves due process. Screwy due process, but at least SOME. The contraband is tried in court and essentially condemned by the court.

But with domain names, the judicial oversight seems to be about the same level as a search warrant at best, and not even that much in every case.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...