ICE Admits That It Just Wants To 'Put People In Jail' With Operation In Our Sites
from the nice-of-them dept
But it wasn’t so simple. The DMCA takedown process allows intermediaries like YouTube to avoid liability because it’s their users uploading the infringing content. Ninja Video was both the intermediary and the uploader. Independent storehouses called “cyberlockers” hosted the content Ninja Video streamed, but Ninja’s uploaders put it there.
The folks at ICE come across as typical meatheads with no clue what they're dealing with here. The real humdinger of a quote comes from ICE Special Agent William Ross, who earlier in the piece notes that he was influenced by Hollywood repeatedly asking him to do their job. But when confronted with the point (made by Corynne McSherry from EFF) that "Arresting people and putting them in jail for having some links online doesn’t really strike me as a good way for us to invest our time and energy." Ross hits back:
“I am a law-enforcement officer,” says Special Agent Ross. “I want to put people in jail.”That, alone, is a pretty ridiculous and scary quote when you think about it. He's not talking about fairness or justice or upholding the law. He just wants to "put people in jail." People like that shouldn't have jobs in power.
In the end, it seems clear that the folks at Ninja Video received horrific legal advice and made some equally poorly thought out legal decisions themselves. I still don't see where the site's operators could have possibly been liable for criminal copyright infringement, but after throwing away the $10,000 they raised on lawyers, who (from the description in the article) did not appear to do very much (and it's not clear they ever understood fully what was happening), the admins quickly caved to government pressure on plea bargains.
In the wake of the Dajaz1 debacle by the Justice Department, it seems even more ridiculous that the NinjaVideo folks agreed to the plea deals. If they'd just received some decent legal advice early on, they wouldn't now be facing years in jail. Pretty unfortunate.
In the meantime, what you get is a ridiculous portrait of a bunch of "we just want to put people in jail" semi-clueless ICE agents (they repeatedly use Alexa as their judge of what's popular -- can no one buy them a subscription to a decent online monitoring service?) who don't even recognize the First Amendment implications of seizing sites with tons of non-infringing content on it, and who seem to be totally in awe of big entertainment companies and the myths they tell. The whole thing would be amusing if it didn't involve serious Constitutional questions and if people weren't ending up in jail.