Last month, we were actually the first publication to report that Homeland Security had very quietly "returned"
two domains that it had "seized" five years ago
based entirely on totally bullshit claims from the RIAA. We focused our story on the search engine torrent-finder, but also mentioned that it appeared that DHS had returned OnSmash.com as well. As we had noted, back when the domain was first seized
, OnSmash was a popular hip hop blog that many in the industry purposely
sent their music to, because it was great for marketing and publicity. In fact, Kanye West had been known to promote OnSmash himself. That doesn't sound like a site "dedicated to infringement" as Homeland Security's ICE division claimed in the affidavit used to seize the website.
Four years ago, we were wondering whatever happened
to OnSmash, as other sites that had gone to court over the seizures had had their domains returned
-- and it was admitted that this was because the RIAA (which had told ICE about these websites) failed to provide
any actual evidence. It appears the same thing happened with OnSmash, though it just took an extra four years
to get the domain back, as OnSmash's operator, Kevin Hofman, chose not to take the riskier path that Dajaz1 took in going to court. But, the NY Times story about the return of OnSmash gets a quote from ICE
admitting that they never had enough evidence
When asked about the return of OnSmash and another site, Torrent-Finder.com, which was seized in the 2010 raid and also returned to its operator this fall, Matthew Bourke, a spokesman for the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that after working with the Justice Department, “it was determined there was not enough evidence to seize the websites.”
Think about that for a second. The US government shut down a blog for more than five years and only after giving it back now admits that it never had enough evidence to seize the website
I'm gong to repeat that:
The US government shut down a blog for more than five years and only after giving it back now admits that it never had enough evidence to seize the website.
Meanwhile, the RIAA, which told the agent in charge of the investigation that these sites were nothing more than dens of infringement, is so obnoxious as to now celebrate
them being returned with some bullshit line about how they now "wish to be legitimate operators":
Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the recording industry association, said he welcomed the return of the sites, as long as they played by the rules. “If the managers of some of these sites now seek to have the domain name returned because they wish to become legitimate operators, that’s a success,” he said.
What a load of horseshit, Lamy. These sites didn't "now seek to have the domain name returned." They asked for it back almost immediately after they were seized on false pretenses based on false information provided by the RIAA
. Perhaps, instead of some bullshit about these sites suddenly wanting to play by the rules, Lamy should walk down the hall to see his colleague Carlos Linares (who is still employed by the RIAA) and ask him what was up when he lied to federal investigators, helping to shut down a popular blog, violating the site's First Amendment rights?
This is from the affidavit used to seize OnSmash:
Now, Hofman is trying to rebuild the blog, having basically lost years of momentum due to the RIAA's lies.
Mr. Hofman, whose day job is managing digital accounts for musicians, has already restarted OnSmash, but he said he was aware of the challenges he would face. The site has lost most of its momentum, and blogs — once at the forefront of online music promotion — have largely been superseded by social media. He noted one advantage: By embedding links from sites like SoundCloud and YouTube, where artists and labels post songs directly, there is no more gray area concerning the source of the music.
“The plan now,” Mr. Hofman said, “is to do my best to pick up the pieces.”
Oh yeah, insult to injury: Homeland Security made him pay $7 to get the domain back.
I'm still amazed that these stories haven't gotten more attention. Again, if the federal government seized and shut down a print magazine
people would be up in arms. But they do that for a bunch of online magazines and nobody seems to care? Again, they seized the domain based on false information and kept it for five years
knowing that they didn't have enough evidence to have made the seizure in the first place.
And the guy who helped at the RIAA is still employed. Has anything happened to the ICE agent, Andrew Reynolds, who wrote the affidavit? How about the magistrate judge, Margaret Nagle, who apparently had no problem signing off on the seizures of internet blogs based on faulty evidence? Apparently, she recently retired
and is now acting as a mediator. You know what might have been helpful? If someone had actually been able to mediate
things back in 2010 before the RIAA, Homeland Security and Judge Nagle worked together to shut down an internet news website with no justification.
I've issued some FOIA requests to Homeland Security about both OnSmash and Torrent-Finder, and so far they've said that it would be "too burdensome" to search for any emails mentioning either site. I'm hopeful that more information will be exposed on what a colossal screwup this was.