EFF on US domain copyright seizures

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry's got great commentary on the Department of Homeland Security's seizure of 82 domain names -- this act of quasi-legal confiscation and censorship is not only ineffective at combatting infringement, it also sucks up scarce DHS resources:
First, these seizures may be just a short preview of the kind of overreaching enforcement we'll see if the Congress passes the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). That bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov 18, gives the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, in particular the ability to make entire websites disappear from the Internet if infringement, or even links to infringement, are deemed to be "central" to the purpose of the site. Rather than just targeting files that actually infringe copyright law, COICA's "nuclear-option" design has the government blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system -- a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech. As we've noted, one of the most pernicious effects of COICA is likely to be just what we've seen here: the takedown of legitimate speech.

Second, the seizures also show why this kind of enforcement doesn't work; seized sites were available at other domain names within hours. If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems -- including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA. Presumably the DOJ and the DHS should be committed to improving network security -- not undermining it.

Third, it's hard to believe that this kind of action is the best use of the Department of Homeland Security's resources. What investigations didn't occur while the DHS spent it time and energy pursuing the agenda of large media companies? Moreover, it's highly unlikely that this publicity stunt will really help creators get compensated. The best way to help artists of every stripe get compensated for their work is to make sure that there is a thriving marketplace of innovative digital businesses to pay them -- business like OnSmash, which is committed to promoting new and unheralded artists.

U.S. Government Seizes 82 Websites: A Glimpse at the Draconian Future of Copyright Enforcement?


  1. Just checked one of those websites and wow – those logos in the pic are actually real.

    BEWARE – the copyright eagle is coming to get you!

  2. I’m not sure why the EFF should say that moving to offshore, decentralized, encrypted DNS should represent a security issue or that DHS would be contributing to undermining security if that should happen – it seems to me that decentralized services should be better from a security standpoint. Certainly they’ll be better than the current system, which has a very central vulnerability to tampering, otherwise this wouldn’t be possible in the first place – and it’s not the first time the central DNS system has been hacked, either. Long past time to get rid of the current DNS framework, and if DHS hastens that, then maybe there is one small aspect in which DHS is valuable in the bigger picture.

  3. “…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    – US 5th Amendment.

    But seriously, Department of HOMELAND SECURITY involved in going after copyright infringement? That’s just scary…

    Terrorism and “intellectual property” are both terms that can be thrown in with “drug crimes” to mean vaguely defined “crimes” that agents of the government can use to bust up anybody they don’t like.

  4. So sad. Somebody told the US government that they controlled the DNS. All the domain registrars should be wetting themselves because as soon as people start using different DNS servers there will suddenly be a lot more TLDs around whether ICANN likes it or not.

  5. This is why the DNS management should be handled by an independent, international organism. It’s absolutely incredible that one country’s government can “seize” ANY domain name. The Internet is NOT American property!!!

    1. Totally Agree with your comment, we need an International Organism to protect Net Neutrality as we know it, not deffend the Industry or U.S.A Gov. own definition of Net Neutrality.
      Where is the Pirate Party?

  6. TSA scanners, these web seizures and who knows what else is coming.
    Seems like the U.S.A Gov. and is very interested in “Doing the Right Thing” to “Help Industry make more money” oh, my mistake should I say “Common People Rights”?

  7. According to U.S.A. Gov:
    Internet Neutrality Freedoms = Terrorism
    Music and Hollywood Film Industry = The Poor Good Guys Affected by Internet Neutrality (because they “are losing money”)

    The Result of this will be interesting, now U.S.A. Gov will make International Treaties to “Enforce the Law Against People Damaging Industry”.

  8. First off, the government isn’t to blame here; the people to blame are the artists who continue to release their works under the protection of traditional copyright law, which the government is charged with enforcing.

    Second, anyone being honest knows that the sites taken down were, in fact, assisting with the distribution of copyrighted material; to pretend otherwise is just pretend.

    Third, it’s not “quasi-legal” if they have a warrant; it’s completely legal.

    And fourth, I question whether this was a labor intensive task for DHS to execute. Five minutes on Google shows me a number of viable targets for the next round of seizures, and I’m not clear how a couple phone calls and emails to ICANN would have taken a significant amount of human resources. Even so, if the software, music and movie industries are paying taxes, the government has a vested interest in protecting their ability to turn a profit.

    Cory Doctorow’s take on copyright issues are so biased, you can’t really take anything at face value. I’m really getting a little tired of the blatant support for piracy of copyrighted material when there’s plenty of media that has been released to the public domain for free distribution and consumption. If you don’t agree with the laws, don’t support the artists who hide behind them.

  9. Does anyone know if OpenDNS is still resolving to the original sites? Or have the domain names been “seized” there, too?

    This kind of thing will inevitably lead to the splintering of the domain name resolution system.

  10. i don’t think that anyone thinks for one minute that this debacle was perpetrated by DHS on its own volition. DHS was directed by its corporate masters to go do this. (seriously, this “raid” was an uber failboat technically — who else but “the suits” would do this?)

    with that established, consider OnSmash as a target. why was an organization dedicated to _promoting_ unknown artists targeted if this is all about “piracy” and counterfeiting?

    OnSmash was targeted BECAUSE IT THREATENED THE ALMIGHTY PROFIT STREAM of the major labels and their attempts to control culture. OnSmash was targeted because it worked against the creation of “consumers” that robotically buy whatever crap those majors puke up.

    there is only one way to fight back. stop buying. don’t buy their garbage, don’t buy their crappy music, crappy movies, their crippled devices, just stop. take away their almighty profit streams.

    …and then go vote for new people who will say “NO” to the next round of bailouts.

  11. I recently found myself watching Babylon 5 again, and for some reason i kinda find a parallel between the “peace department” that shows up in season 2 onwards, and “homeland security”. Watch out if “homeland security” creates their own “police force”, a la “nightwatch”.

  12. If you look at the take-down image you’ll notice that it wasn’t just Homeland Security but specifically ICE, which normally deals with arresting immigrants and keeping them in (according to Global Detention Project) the largest immigration detention system in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_detention_in_the_United_States

    In reply to Anon #12:
    The purpose of copyright is to protect the public from big business, not the other way around.

    The world has changed, we live in a post-scarcity environment. It’s kind of like like Star Trek: The Next Generation where you hit a button on a replicator and what you ask for materializes. These days we can go to the Internet, click a weblink and the movie/song/book/whatever appears on our hard drive. The problem is humanity has never had to deal with post-scarcity before. We’re groping our way through the darkness without a map and there are plenty of people who are more than willing to take advantage of it.

  13. DHS refuses to stop illegal immigration and the companies that benefit from it but they’ll violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to protect some media billionaires.

    Is it Quid Pro Quo for spreading propaganda or do corps own the government entirely?

    No protection for the US worker but instant seizure without trial to protect the profits of the Owners.

  14. About the financial cost of the seizures, in its press communiqué about them, http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1011/101129washington.htm , ICE says:

    “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. Individuals attempting to access the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.”

    This shopping tactics of inquiry must have had a cost too, and it makes it even more difficult to understand the seizure of http://torrent-finder.com , which being a meta-search engine for torrents, does not sell anything. The seizure of torrent-finder.com also fits EFF’s remark about inefficiency: torrent-finder still works from http://torrent-finder.info .

    Then there is the for-dummies video summary of that press conference released by ICE on Nov. 30, “Operation in Our Sites 2” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVbZlHLIz0g.

    The combination of war-mongering phrases – “This is a long fight. (…) We are in the throes of a heated and pitched battle (…) wage this fight (…) – that echo George W. Bush’s “War against Evil” conferences after 9/11, of the recognition that the operation doesn’t work, and of the ludicrous seizure banner reproduced in this post would be comical if it were not so sinister (like PatrThom in comment 13, I first thought the seizures story was a hoax, because they seemed so ludicrous).

    I added the transcript of that ICE video in http://blog.allmend.ch/2010/12/02/us-attacke-auf-das-system-der-domaenen-namen/comment-page-1/#comment-85934 . The main post by Hartwig, in German, explains how the domain seizures were done, technically, and remarks (my translation): “One of the consequences is that normal users must get an understanding of the concepts of IP addresses and domain names (…) Another consequence is that the US have shown the world how cyber war is waged. It is to be feared that the world will prove very good at learning.”

    Indeed. The problem is that mainstream media, who could play a crucial role in helping normal users get such an understanding, haven’t done that so far. Let’s hope they will.

    But why does ICE call the operation “In Our Sites” if what they seize are sites / domain names of non US citizens?

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