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?