US Customs' domain-seizure program punishes the first amendment, leaves alleged pirates largely unscathed

TorrentFreak's postmortem of the DHS's domain-seizure program ("Operation In Our Sites") in which the .com and .net dozens of allegedly infringing sites were seized without due process and with a great deal of sloppiness. Though the program was willing to toss out the first amendment and turn the US government into a business agent for entertainment companies, it was a near-total failure in removing its targetted sites:
It wasn't hard for the affected sites to continue their operations. Since their servers had not been touched physically it was a simple matter to change a few settings to make the sites available to the public again under a new domain, something achieved in a few minutes. This is exactly what most of the streaming and file-sharing related sites have done.

During the latest round of seizures under the "Operation In Our Sites" flag in February, a total of 10 domain names were targeted, belonging to 6 different sports streaming services. Despite the thousands of dollars in tax payer money that were spend on the enforcement effort, all of the sites were back up in no time under new domains.

As of today, only one of the six is no longer accessible and that is the site of Bryan McCarthy, who was arrested by the feds last month. McCarthy initially continued his website under a new domain at The day after his arrest this site was still up and running and it is believed that due to the circumstances he took it offline himself after he was bailed out.

US Government's 'Pirate' Domain Seizures Failed Miserably


  1. This is hardly surprising.

    However, I wonder how long it took Google to re-find the new sites, and adjust all the torrent searches? Without some way of finding the site, it’s effectively gone, even if it’s reachable under a new domain.

    1. It would be an interesting settlement if the domains were required to host a particular robots.txt that prevented the site from being crawled.

  2. probably not so very long. If you were planning, for example, to go to (one of the targeted sites), you can just put that into the google, and the third hit is, which I assume is the same thing and which has not been taken down. I mean, I never went to either site before the takedown, so it’s hard for me to compare, but I’m thinking that anyone who wants to pirate some sports broadcasts has been minimally inconvenienced.

  3. If they take down the actual pirates they no longer have any excuse for continued abuse of power.

    If they take down non-pirates, they get to call it collateral damage essentially caused by piracy, that just proves the need for more expenditures and more takedowns. Winning!!!

  4. From Wiktionary:

    fascism (usually uncountable; plural fascisms)

    1. A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights. Originally only applied (usually capitalized) to Benito Mussolini’s Italy.

  5. There is a total disconnect between Reality and FUD RE: Piracy and Legit Sharing. The terms seem rather self evident, or are they? I consider a simplistic first look test in order.

    Piracy= Distribution of that which violates “anything” making a file unlawful/unethical to share

    Legit Sharing= Distribution of “whatever” is freely intended to be Lawfully and Ethically shared.

    There’s not much room to dispute those concepts that I can see.

    The concern of most grim impact is that Site Seizures, absent due process are inherently a civil rights issue. And there’s a damages multiplier in the FUD Wars. This sort of stunt smells to hell of an attempt to make all sharing- even Legit, seem risky. Chilling Effect indeed.

  6. @greenjello

    It took so little time to get new domains, I didn’t even notice they were switched until days after the fact. I just googled the site name, and there they were.

  7. If “law enforcement” violates “the law” as a routine part of its business, has it obtained a new status of “organized crime?”

  8. Minor typo in the post:

    in which the .com and .net dozens of allegedly infringing sites were seized without due process and with a great deal of sloppiness.

    Was probably meant to include “domains” after “.net”

    It sounds like some of the advocates for COICA have noticed that these seizures are an example of how not to do things, and are willing to say as much. However, I’m not convinced that they’ve taken it to heart at all, so I’m not optimistic about the remedies they intend to propose to prevent a repeat in COICA.

    This move by ICE is just weird, though. It’s an arbitrary extension of authority and procedure of a law enforcement agency, completely devoid of and divorced from any new legislation to guide it or give it such authority. It would seem that even the most justified of their seizures may well be illegal anyway by virtue of the way they conducted it.

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