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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2010 @ 11:12am

    Murky waters

    Maybe Kanye West saw value in RapGodFathers, but the invisible hand of the IP-enforcement-market didn't.

    On another note, I read in an DoJ press release that "Operation In Our Sites 2.0" goes through the laborious process of acquiring goods from each of these domains then (perhaps subjectively) determines authenticity of the product.

    "During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. In many instances, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. If the goods were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from U.S. magistrate judges."

    Source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/November/10-ag-1355.html


    In addition to acquiring the item, it would be good to know what, if any, techniques the DoJ, DHS and ICE used to determine if the items sold were even subject to US copyright law.

    What due diligence did DoJ, DHS and ICE use to determine the products/services offered on the website/s in question acquire any necessary licensing paperwork (if necessary). Were the copyrights registered with the Library of Congress? Do the products sold qualify as derivative works not subject to copyright law?

    Some of this may not apply to other sites, but I think it's a reasonable request to ensure due process was followed.

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