UK Proposal Would Allow Police To Seize Domain Names Without A Court Order

from the taking-ice-up-a-notch dept

We've noted in the past that as with Homeland Security's questionable process of seizing domain names without an adversarial hearing, law enforcement in the UK wanted to be able to do the same thing. In fact, reports came out that the .uk registrar, Nominet, had already helped police seize thousands of sites, but mostly on a technicality involving false contact details. However, they're now taking it up a notch, with a new proposal that would let police demand that a domain be blocked without a court order.

While Nominet insists that this should be limited to cases where it was needed "to prevent serious and immediate consumer harm," as we've seen with ICE's domain seizures, law enforcement (at the urging of the entertainment industry) likes to claim "serious and immediate consumer harm" from things like blogs that promote music. It's not difficult to see how this amorphous standard would be widely abused. Nominet also claims that this would only be used for "serious crimes" -- but the list includes: fraud, prostitution, money laundering, blackmail and copyright infringement. Ah, yes, copyright infringement. Forget due process, the UK police will just start shutting down sites on the say-so of the entertainment industry -- the same industry that says that the Internet Archive is a pirate site.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 3:55am

    And the serious crime of allowing people to talk about how angry the government is making them.
    Because all of the talk is a threat to the stability of the country, because they will all being rioting at any point if they can tell other people how angry they are.

    I find it amazing how much people are allowing to have happen for their own "good". Is the US not a good enough example of what happens when you check your critical thinking at the door and let the politicians create laws to save you from the boogeymen?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:07am

    Serious Business

    There seems to be some values dissonance at play here.

    Most people commenting here probably consider copyright infringement a minor crime (and some think it should not be a crime at all). But it is clear some people consider it as a much more serious crime.

    I would guess it is the same with "prostitution" on that list. People from countries where it is legal would not consider it a crime at all, and find bizarre that it is called a "serious crime" in the UK.

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:21am

      Re: Serious Business

      The people who consider it a much more serious crime support that position by claiming losses of billions of dollars, they refuse to let those numbers be validated by anyone but themselves.

      The larger problem at play here is the idea that the rule of law suddenly does not need anything more that someone telling a police officer "This site is bad." and then a phone call is made and it is vanished.

      When you look at the list of sites those corporations claim are breaking the law, many of them are not in fact violating any law on the books. The fact that due process is no longer needed in certain areas should be very troubling, today it is an evil "pirate" site, next is it going to be a website for people coordinating a peaceful protest? Will it be someone's blog speaking out calling the PM an idiot tyrant?

      With the law there is a series of checks and balances, imperfect as they might be. With these new super powers there is only the ability to block them at the whim of someone who quite often doesn't care about the rights of anyone but themselves. There can be no violation but in their mind, and that is enough to remove peoples access to something like YouTube or The Internet Archive or even their own artists offering music to entice new customers.

       

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:49am

      Re: Serious Business

      I would guess it is the same with "prostitution" on that list. People from countries where it is legal would not consider it a crime at all, and find bizarre that it is called a "serious crime" in the UK

      Somewhat entertainingly as far as I am aware "prostitution" itself is actually not a crime in the UK. "Soliciting (i.e. street corners)" yes, "Running/keeping a Brothel" yes, "trafficing and forced prostitution" yes, but actually selling sex not so much. And yes that's probably equally as stupid and contradictory as much of UK law so it should be right at home with this mind-bendingly dumb, draconian and (as usual) badly thought through plan.

       

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      The eejit (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 5:37am

      Re: Serious Business

      Wou8ld you trust vested interests to say, "yes, this person is infringing" and just accept it and get your domain cut off?

      Somehow, I doubt it.

       

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      Zot-Sindi, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 5:39am

      Re: Serious Business

      Most people commenting here probably consider copyright infringement a minor crime (and some think it should not be a crime at all). But it is clear some people consider it as a much more serious crime.


      well... from all the crap i've read on about it to this date it's clear enough to me that i've begun to consider it a serious problem, how's that?

       

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        Zot-Sindi, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 5:41am

        Re: Re: Serious Business

        bleh reading fail, at the very least it still kind of goes with the post, no more morning posting for me

         

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      Richard (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 6:18am

      Re: Serious Business

      There seems to be some values dissonance at play here.


      Yeah - between those who measure morality by what they perceive to be good for their own bank balances and the rest of us.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 6:37am

      Re: Serious Business

      Last time I checked, your free speech and business opportunities couldn't be killed at the drop of a hat by the government because someone accused you of prostitution. Even in the UK, where "newspapers" have no problem leveraging said comments against you if it can sell a few copies.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:42am

      Re: Serious Business

      > People from countries where it is legal
      > would not consider it a crime at all, and
      > find bizarre that it is called a "serious
      > crime" in the UK.

      I'm from a country where prostitution is a crime (save some parts of Nevada), and I think it's bizarre that anyone would consider it a serious crime.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:14am

    Copyright infringement is serious business. Your downloading one thing without paying one day then BAM, Communism. Is that what you want?

     

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    anonymous, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:16am

    did anyone expect anything different? the UK is just a slave to the USA, who in turn, are just a slave to the entertainment industries. i'm waiting to see when those industries take complete control of the legal system, deciding any and all sentences for any and all 'crimes'. the way it's going, it will be 50 hours community service for murder and life imprisonment for 'file sharing'!

     

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    abc gum, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:35am

    Judge Dredd was supposed to be a fictional character, not a role model.

     

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 4:54am

      Re:

      Judge Dredd was supposed to be a fictional character, not a role model.

      More "Inspector Clouseau" than "Judge Dredd" to my mind. Definitely more farcical than Sci-Fi..... "I am the Lieurre, you nieuow!".

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:44am

      Re:

      It was a warning in reality.

       

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    Richard (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 6:26am

    If they keep their own rules

    It won't be so bad
    "While the policy advisory group has taken input from the Alliance Against IP Theft, Blowers said the policy wasn’t intended for private copyright enforcement."

    However I'm not confident that this will last in practice - given the history of cases like Oink.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 6:39am

    Ah, yes, copyright infringement. Forget due process, the UK police will just start shutting down sites on the say-so of the entertainment industry -- the same industry that says that the Internet Archive is a pirate site.

    Ah, "due process." A term of art that has very specific legal meaning, yet Mike bandies it about with the carelessness of a child. I know you don't understand what the term means in U.S. law, so I'm practically certain you don't know what it means in legal systems elsewhere.

    Professor Masnick, please explain exactly how this violates due process in the U.K. I know you can't/won't make that argument BECAUSE THIS IS ALL FUD.

    Look, I don't care if you want to argue that something is a bad idea policy-wise. But if you're going to use legal terms, be prepared to back it up with plausible legal arguments. Or else, you can expect to be called out for SIMPLY SPREADING FUD.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      It can only be seized in anti-terror measures or fraud cases at the moment. I find you amusing that you offer no citations, yet expect everyone else to.

       

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      mike allen (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:38am

      Re:

      citations required


      Doudt we get em this AC has no proof is a lier a fraud and should be taken down from humanity.
      His computer seized and hard drive reported to the authorities. He has infringed others free speech.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:47am

      Re:

      > I know you don't understand what the term
      > means in U.S. law, so I'm practically
      > certain you don't know what it means in
      > legal systems elsewhere.

      I have a law degree in the US. Don't have one in the UK. But I know enough about the UK's general principles of law to know that pulling someone's web site merely because someone in the entertainment industry doesn't like it does not meet the standard of due process in the UK as it has existed for centuries.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      Like you crazy person?

       

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    ASTROBOI, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 6:50am

    History repeats....

    There is a wonderful documentary out on "Video Nastys" telling how police confiscated entire inventories of video stores back in the '90's just to make sure stuff like "Last House on the Left" didn't get rented. No court orders, no oversight, just walk in and put the guy out of business. Now, instead of stores, it's sites. The entertainment people would do well to remember their own history. 50 years ago the HUAC and McCarthy just about put them out of business, blacklisting directors, actors, writers and cinematographers. Only the revelation of McCarthys own misdeeds put a stop to it. A few decades earlier, the Catholic church got a stranglehold on the business and and almost wrecked it for anyone over 12 years old. Yet they continue to develop tools and laws the government and zealot fringe groups can use to destroy them. Once the cops can close down whatever they please perhaps the entertainment folks will learn just what a monster they have created.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 7:27am

      Re: History repeats....

      "There is a wonderful documentary out on "Video Nastys" "

      I believe you're referring to the Jake West documentary that came out last year? If so, definitely worth a watch for anyone wanting to see the ridiculous mindset of those involved and how it interestingly shows similarities to some of today's right-wing hysteria, as well as how utterly wrong and misguided the whole thing was.

      I was lucky enough to see the premiere of that documentary at Frightfest in London last year, and the responses from some of those defending the actions of the BBFC/ "Bright" act (hilariously misnamed and it's the dimmest piece of UK legislation last century) show we still haven't gotten totally past the "if I don't like it, it must be illegal crowd". Today known as the MPAA/RIAA, of course.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    @Masnick, would you feel better about this proposal if there was judicial review like with the Protect IP Act? And I don't know what makes you think the police will simply act on an allegation without investigating (just like they'd investigate an allegation of any other crime). Seems like the noose is getting tighter. Get used to it.

     

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      The Logician (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 7:18am

      Re:

      You should not have so much faith in law and law enforcement, AC #23. Whenever there has been room to abuse a law for their own benefit, governments and law enforcement has done this. It is their history, their own precedent. This is why we say that this measure will be abused just as those prior to it have been. Government bodies in thrall to monied interests have no other motivation or desire.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re:

        @Logician

        Whenever there has been room to abuse a law for their own benefit, governments and law enforcement has done this. It is their history, their own precedent.

        How do government and law enforcement "benefit" in this instance?

        So by extending your so-called "logic" we should not have any laws like forfeiture laws against the Bernie Madows and drug kingpins of the world either.

         

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          Richard (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So by extending your so-called "logic" we should not have any laws like forfeiture laws against the Bernie Madows and drug kingpins of the world either.


          Those laws do make me uncomfortable. Your characterisation of the laws as being "against the Bernie Madows and drug kingpins of the world" is of course an emotive argument - designed to suppress criticism of your point by subliminally labelling anyone who disagrees with you as being in favour of drugs or ponzi schemes (btw it's "Madoff" as in "he made off with all my money").

          You should remember that "hard cases make bad laws" and once a law is on the books it can (and will) be used against anyone - including you.

          The line between good and evil runs through everyone (Solzhenitsyn) - due process is there to curb the dark side of those who are supposed to be the good guys.

          There have already been a number of bad cases of improper collusion between UK law enforcement and private copyright enforcement interests - so any measure that makes further incidents more likely is bad news.

           

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          ASTROBOI, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "How do government and law enforcement "benefit" in this instance? "

          Governments benefit whenever they can increase their control over the population. It makes the process of government easier and decreases the ability of citizens to resist policies that are unpopular. Those in power proclaim (and perhaps even believe) that they will only use their new powers for the good of the people. Eventually they equate that so-called good with any government policy. Law enforcement, as an arm of the government, is always looking for ways to be more efficient. Eventually, due process is seen as inefficient since the police now believe that suspicion is equal to guilt. One has only to look up the terrifying words of Edwin Meese: "If a person is innocent he is not a suspect" to realise how far this sort of thing can go.

           

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          The eejit (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          WE shouldn't need them, in an ideal world. Government and LEOs in the UK benefit from this in two ways:

          a) through not requiring the courts' oversight; and
          b) allowing for the stifling of political speech you disagree with (e.g. silencing the BNP, even though I think they should be burned at the stake for crimes against intelligence.)

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There was a real need for those things, but there were also mean with some sense of decency before which it is not true anymore, so the government don't get to play with those toys no more without a shit load of protests from every corner of society.

           

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    Thomas (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:25am

    copyright infringement??

    is a serious crime? How? So they're bypassing the courts...hmm..Maybe the next step is to just have the cops raid the sites and throw the owners in jail for 5 years without even a trial? Why bother with trials? Find pirated music on your computer, you go to jail for 5 years, no parole. It would save money by not having the expense of a trial. In the view of entertainment people, this would be ideal and they fully expect that there would be a huge increase in sales of CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and paid online music services. No.

     

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    ASTROBOI, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    "hard cases make bad laws"

    In the USA, one needs look no further than the odious RICO act to see a frightful example. Originally intended to make it easier to convict members of crime families, the act has morphed into a blanket excuse to arrest anybody as long as two or more people are involved in an alleged crime. A TWO MEMBER crime family?!

    Then we have the "criminal tools" laws. Originally intended to inflict harsher punishment on burglars who used crowbars and jimmies to break and enter, these laws now allow prostitutes to be charged with using such criminal tools as provocative clothing and high heeled shoes. And, yes, such a case was in fact brought to court! Unless a person commits an offense TOTALLY NAKED and empty handed they risk being charged with "possession of criminal tools"!

    Forfeiture laws have been insane for decades. Originally intended to deprive convicted felons of the fruits of their crimes, they are now a profit center for corrupt police. One famous case involved a wealthy man, disliked by the police, who had just bought a million dollar boat. The drug police scoured the ship and found a single "roach", clearly left there by a previous owner or a worker. They attempted to seize the ship under a "zero tolerance" law WITHOUT charging the new owner with any crime. Last week some Canadian cops tried, and may yet succeed, to seize 2 million dollars worth of race cars as punishment for participating in an alleged race that no one saw and which may have not even happened. This after the car owners were found guilty only of minor misdemeanors and fined $160 dollars.

    Cops are only human and are just as susceptible as anyone. Removing temptation is a good idea.

     

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    Revelati, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    It is terrible to see our freedoms eroded by terrorism and security issues. It is absolutely sickening to see them eroded for something as paltry as entertainment.

    At this point the entertainment industry is a parasite on the global economy, there are BILLIONS of dollars being dumped into making crap media as we speak while the world economy is 1 notch above flat-line. We treat actors like the new aristocratic elite, and the people who finance them have vast sums of political power and influence.

    These people aren't doctors, they aren't scientists, hell they aren't even investment bankers (higher level parasites). A farmer with a few acres of land actually contributes more value to the world economy than any actor ever will. A mere one hundred years ago, a farmer wouldn't let his daughter marry an entertainer.

    Im not saying that we should revert back to the puritanical values of the past, or that these people don't deserve to make a living, but they absolutely don't deserve to be living like kings.

    Unfortunately the fault is with the public that supports them, everyone in the developed world seems to have too much free time if they can spend as much as they do on bloated overpriced media.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2011 @ 11:22am

    What I am trying to figure out is how you can get "block a domain" and equate it to "seize a domain".

    As soon as you screw up the basics, the rest pretty much follows.

    *shakes head*

     

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    aikiwolfie (profile), Sep 12th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    The UK is not the USA. Our Police aren't nearly as trigger happy as in the US. And technically speaking domain names could probably already be seized if there was evidence to support the seizure. This is not a new law or the establishment of a new body. This is an existing company reviewing it's policies to formalise what they're already doing.

    Considering Nominet have stated civil requests should be excluded. Meaning the record industry can't just ask Nominet to do a seizure and they're considering an appeals process and have excluded requests that would suppress free speech. I think we should wait until the screw up before we shoot them.

    I also think a few more people here should actually read the PDF.

    "Draft recommendations – key principles

    Nominet should have an abuse policy that specifically addresses criminal activity in its terms and conditions.

    Nominet should be able to act under an expedited process to suspend domain names associated with serious crime when requested by a law enforcement agency.

    An expedited procedure to suspend domain names should only be available where a) it is the last resort in dealing with the domain name, following requests with registrar, ISPs etc in the first instance or b) it is the most viable option to prevent imminent or ongoing serious consumer harm.

    The policy should exclude suspension where issues of freedom of expression are central aspects of the disputed issue.

    Nominet should consider establishing a registrant appeal mechanism.

    When the policy is operational, Nominet should set up an independent panel to review how the policy is working.

    Nominet should exclude civil or third party requests from this policy (which is focused on criminality), but these merit further discussion under the policy process.

    Nominet should communicate the outcome of its policy development to Government to inform its own deliberations in this field."

     

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    Dave, Sep 13th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Thin end of wedges

    And just who is to make the final decision whether a site is "naughty" or not? Just ripe for abuse, if you ask me. Seems there is a lot of this sort of thing floating around where the "authorities" or other organisations (police included) make a unilateral and/or arbitrary decision to take action against something they don't like without the due process of a court even getting so much as a sniff of the situation. This is not right. The laws of the land are there to be upheld by the courts, not some jumped-up little Hitlers who think they can rule the world.

     

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      aikiwolfie (profile), Sep 13th, 2011 @ 2:38pm

      Re: Thin end of wedges

      Simple fact of the matter is Nominet has always reserved the right to discontinue your domain name if you don't play by their rules. This is nothing new. Domain names so far as I know are effectively rented for a minimum of 2 years.

      So who makes the final decision? Likely Nominet in the first instance. However they are a British company operating under British law. Which means they must abide by certain trading standards.

      Now if the Police take improper action and pressure Nominet to take down a site without sufficient evidence purely on the say so of the MPAA. The you could conceivably complain to the Police Complaints Commission.

      Where I find ICE particularly controversial, which is what the article seems to be comparing this policy review by Nominet to, is that ICE seems to operate beyond USA borders. Which is actually more of a case for each country managing it's own registries than it is an anti-IP case.

       

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    identicon
    Exchange e currency, Aug 13th, 2012 @ 3:17am

    At payinp.com we help thousands of e-commerce businesses accept secure online payments via our trusted payment gateway. We offer easy, affordable and reliable payment solutions for all.

     

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