If Newly Seized Domains Were Purely Dedicated To Infringement, Why Was Kanye West Using One?

from the questions,-questions dept

The details of Homeland Security's domain name seizures keeps looking more and more questionable. Early on, people were scratching their heads over the seizure of torrent-finder.com, which was a pure search engine, but the deeper that people are looking into the domains involving copyright claims (many of the seized domains were apparently about trademark/counterfeiting rather than copyright), the more questionable the whole situation looks. Torrent-finder was just the start. Two more of the seized sites, RapGodfathers and OnSmash are popular hip hop blogs. In fact, both sites note that labels and artists regularly send them their own music, and both sites note that they comply with the DMCA in taking down files based on takedown notices. Even more damning, top artists like Kanye West clearly appreciate sites like this. Just a few weeks ago, Kanye West linked to OnSmash via his Twitter feed.

It really looks like Homeland Security/ICE may have seriously screwed up here. Whether or not seizing domains in general like this is even legal is an open legal question -- and blatantly seizing domains with tons of legit content that the industry and artists regularly used themselves seems like a test case the government doesn't want just waiting to happen. Hopefully the folks behind both blogs have already gotten in touch with various civil liberties/free speech lawyers who can help make them into perfect test cases to show that the government can't just seize web sites without due process.

Filed Under: blogs, copyright, domain names, free speech, seizures

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  1. icon
    average_joe (profile), 1 Dec 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Can you please elaborate? I was under the impression that section 230 of the DMCA said that if you complied with takedown notices then you were not punished for the actions of your users.

    You're mixing up a couple of different things.

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA"), 47 U.S.C. 230, gives providers of interactive computer services safe harbor from liability for the posts of their users. For example, if I post something defamatory on techdirt, techdirt can't be held liable for my defamation. Section 230 specifically does not apply to intellectual property laws, nor does it apply to criminal liability. In short, it doesn't apply here.

    Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), 17 U.S.C. 512, provides safe harbor to online service providers from liability for the copyright infringement of their users, but only if the providers follow certain procedures. For example, if I post copyrighted material on techdirt, techdirt can't be held liable if it follows the procedures.

    However, DMCA safe harbors do not shield those operators who themselves take part in or have knowledge of the infringement. You can't just set a website with a proper DMCA agent, use it to commit or help to commit criminal copyright infringement, and then claim that your compliance with the DMCA shields you from liability. It simply doesn't work that way. You lose your eligibility for the safe harbor, you are not shielded from liability, and your domain name is subject to seizure.

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