Homeland Security Wanted To Seize Pirate Bay And MegaUpload Domains?
from the sure-they-wanted-to... dept
The report did not cite under what law the domain names were seized. As far as I know there is no federal law that allows the seizure of domain names. That of course is the troubling part. Although I have no love for sites that allow the distribution of protected works for free, when the federal government starts making up their own remedies for violation of laws, its a problem. Moreover all that happened here was a claim by the government of improper conduct by the site. There does not appear to been a hearing where any of the domain owners got notice or what you would call due process, which is an opportunity to defend themselves prior to the domain seizureThis reminds many folks of the still ongoing legal dispute in Kentucky over whether or not the governor there can just seize the domains of certain gambling-related websites.
TorrentFreak has an anonymously-sourced (so, take that for what it's worth...) story, suggesting that ICANN was involved in the domain name seizure of these websites, using technicalities in how those sites were registered to take back the domains and hand them over to the US government.
As TorrentFreak notes, this seems to open a huge Pandora's box of potential problems, in terms of what the US government and Homeland Security (at the behest of Disney) might seize next, without any due process. What about some more well-known sites, like The Pirate Bay's domain or MegaUpload? According to the (again, anonymously sourced...) report on TorrentFreak, US officials looked into seizing both of those as well, but realized doing so would likely create other diplomatic and PR-related issues:
Shockingly, TorrentFreak was informed that wheels were also set in motion to seize The Pirate Bay domain. But for reasons that remain unclear that didn't come to pass. Our source believes that the US authorities would've had to contact the Swedish authorities on the matter first, but that since there is already an unfinished criminal process against the site, the time was not considered right. There is an implication, however, that patience won't last forever and may run out after the founders' upcoming court appeal.Given the anonymous sourcing, it's worth taking the reports with a grain of salt, though I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the possibility of seizing the domains was at least explored. If I had to guess, the possibility of a PR nightmare was probably what kept those plans on the drawing board. It was easy to step in and seize the relatively little known domains that they did. In fact, very few of the stories focused on the seizure of the domains themselves. If it had been a major site, much more attention and legal scrutiny would have been quickly applied to the question of what legal authority does Homeland Security have to seize domains.
Another site in the cross hairs appears to be MegaUpload. Although a domain seizure was suggested, it now seems that another route has been taken, at least for now. We have also been informed by other sources that further sites are being watched although it proved impossible to discover their names.
However, now that the dust is settling on the Disney-directed bust, it does seem like an important question for Homeland Security officials to answer. On what basis can they seize domains and what role did ICANN play in those seizures?