Feds Back To Seizing Websites Over Claims Of Copyright Infringement

from the motherfucking-eagles dept

While we've written plenty about the US Justice Department and US Homeland Security (via ICE) seizing various websites on questionable legal authority by claiming they were tools used for criminal copyright infringement, a series of pretty massive screwups seemed to have them, at least temporarily, shying away from such seizures around copyright claims. Huge errors like seizing Dajaz1 for over a year and then having to admit they had no evidence and give it back seemed to at least make them a little less cowboyish about the websites they chose to shut down and censor.

But, of course, this is the federal government we're talking about, and they sure loved the ability to shut down speech without any sort of adversarial hearing or, you know, due process. So you just knew it wouldn't last. The latest is that the feds have seized three more domains (applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com), claiming that they were "engaged in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android cell phone apps." Indeed, a quick look at the internet archive certainly suggests that these sites advertised that you could get "paid" apps for free if you joined. But does that warrant a criminal investigation and seizure? Perhaps there are more details, but given the sketchy details of earlier seizures, I'd wonder.

But, more to the point, if these sites were really engaged in such things, why wouldn't a civil copyright infringement lawsuit suffice? Why should the government get involved, when it involves completely pulling down a website with no warning, no adversarial hearing and no due process for those accused?

The Justice Department seems to indicate that this sort of thing is now a "top priority," because (apparently) they have way too much free time on their hands:
“Cracking down on piracy of copyrighted works – including popular apps – is a top priority of the Criminal Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Software apps have become an increasingly essential part of our nation’s economy and creative culture, and the Criminal Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the creators of these apps and other forms of intellectual property from those who seek to steal it.”

“Criminal copyright laws apply to apps for cell phones and tablets, just as they do to other software, music and writings. These laws protect and encourage the hard work and ingenuity of software developers entering this growing and important part of our economy. We will continue to seize and shut down websites that market pirated apps, and to pursue those responsible for criminal charges if appropriate,” said U.S. Attorney Yates.

“The theft of intellectual property, particularly within the cyber arena, is a growing problem and one that cannot be ignored by the U.S government’s law enforcement community. These thefts cost companies millions of dollars and can even inhibit the development and implementation of new ideas and applications. The FBI, in working with its various corporate and government partners, is not only committed to combating such thefts but is well poised to coordinate with the many jurisdictions that are impacted by such activities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lamkin.
One other tidbit of interest. Unlike the previous seizure disasters, this one appears not to have been led by ICE, but directly by the Justice Department (via the FBI). The announcement doesn't name this as a part of "Operation in our Sites" which seems to be a term specific to ICE's controversial program. Either way, they're still certainly using the eagle-heavy "seized" graphic they love to throw around, so, of course, we'd be remiss if we did not remind folks that they can purchase their very own "seized tee," to show what you think of the government's efforts.

Filed Under: android, apps, doj, domains, fbi, seizures, websites


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  1. icon
    Wally (profile), 22 Aug 2012 @ 6:37pm

    My two cents (yes I finaly logged in)

    Before I remotely start on my comment I would like to add that there has been so much arguing and bickering and trolling that my iPod (which is iPhone 4 equivalent without cellular antenna, GPS or any vibrating parts) keeps crashing its web browser due to the huge response over the article. I am forced to use my computer so good luck to all with my grammar...at least my spelling will be correct.

    Mike Mansick, I am not here to call you out, I just want to see if we are on the same page. I understand in full your views on this matter but I ask that you please hear me out if you can. I am just looking for some common ground as I have with other writers and users of TechDirt. My other intent is to give you an alternative point of view.

    Mike, the article is good. I agree with most of it. It exposes injustices of the DOJ and the FBI quite well. However, I am certain in my mind that the take down of Applanet was legitimate.

    Why those DoubleMySpeed websites haven't been taken out is beyond me though....onward to my point....

    When the FBI and the DOJ are alone in the take-down of a website, it is usually for consumer fraud. I did some digging about in regards to Applanet to find that the apps being sold were not only NOT getting the money earned to the creators of those works, they were distributing older versions of the software being sold as "up to date" compared to Google Play. Amongst those files were apps that had been pulled from Google Play that had caused viruses to be spread around.

    While I am all for alternate methods of content distribution and/or sales (GoodOldGames, Steam, Macintosh Garden (Free legacy Abandoned Mac OS software/games))even if you have to use Bit-Torrent to get the content (OCremix.org), I do not think it is right to not pay developers of Apps of their earnings or creative works....Google Play and iTunes alike...when there is a price on the item at hand. Applanet made no such contributions to the developers.

    The first smoking gun I saw on the Applanet page was the PayPal Button, which is almost ALWAYS consistent on almost EVERY page i have seen the icon on. I have never seen the Word Donate in Droid font below the word "PayPal" or any associating fonts but the one default PayPal always uses with their icon.

    Second Smoking Gun was this text:
    "Access Paid Apps for FREE!

    Applanet's massive database contains more than 14,000 Android applications. You have access to the latest version of both free and paid applications found in the Android Market and even some you can't find and will not need to pay for anything! Applanet is your one-stop alternative app market."

    Think about how it was worded. "You have access to the latest version of both paid and free applications on the market"
    Given the site's "Donation" button and that wording, they use the money to buy ONE copy of the app and distribute it many times to make it "free" and "you don't pay a thing".

    http://web.archive.org/web/20110629034336/http://www.applanet.net/

    Then we have the consumer fraud side of things (which I believe the ICE was not involved in the take-down of this website) where i managed to find a complaint here:

    http://www.droidxforums.com/forum/droid-x-general-discussion/11265-do-not-use-app-applanet. html

    and here:
    http://androidforums.com/android-lounge/310926-applanet-net-legit-no.html

    So to review for everyone else what I just wrote:
    They take your money through "Donations" and are not claiming not-for-proffit.
    They buy one App and distribute many times as well as claim it to be up to date and the developers don't see a dime of their work.
    Has an illegitimate donation button From PayPal where the wording, the font, and the icon are all completely different from the usual PayPal donation button.

    That screams more of illegitimate use and distribution more than it does piracy.


    Mike, I think you for your time.

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