Sen Ron Wyden promises hard questions over US Customs Enforcement's secret seizure of domain names

Senator Ron Wyden's staffers have promised a flood of Freedom of Information Act requests to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the DHS over its program of seizing domains it believes to be implicated in copyright infringement. ICE's domain-seizure program made news this week when the Kafkaesque tale of, a hiphop site that posted music that it received from record labels for that purpose, became widely known.'s owners and their lawyers were never allowed to see the evidence against them, or contest the charges, because ICE conducted its entire case against the site in secret. A year later, it released the domain without apology, saying the "forfeiture was unwarranted."

"I expect the administration will be receiving a series of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from our office and that the senator will have very pointed questions with regard to how the administration chooses to target the sites that it does," said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. She said the senator was "particularly interested in learning how many secret dockets exist for copyright cases. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious precedent or explanation for that."

Wyden’s interest comes a day after federal authorities returned the domain name, which was back online greeting visitors Friday with a powerful message about proposed web-censorship legislation that expands the government—and copyright holders—power to shutter and cripple sites suspected of copyright infringement.

Wyden is also the senator leading the charge against the Stop Online Piracy Act, which will institutionalize the powers ICE arrogated to itself in the seizure, streamlining them and extending them to cover payment processors and advertising brokers, and giving them to entertainment companies to exercise directly, without any need to have government agencies do work on their behalf.

Senator Wyden wants answers from DHS over domain name seizures


  1. “When information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and – eventually – incapable of determining their own destinies.” Richard M. Nixon

      1. Not if you read the statement as a goal, instead of a warning.

        Hell, I’m pretty sure it would get unanimous approval if someone offers it as a plank in the GOP platform at next summer’s convention.

  2. That was something i just noticed, and am confused by- why was ICE involved at all? Copyright, at first glance, should be so far outside their juridsiction as to make seeing them enforce traffic violations make more sense.

    1. It becomes the jurisdiction of Customs if it is alleged that foreign goods have been imported into the United States in infringement of a patent, copyright or trademark; ICE is authorised to search for and seize the counterfeit merchandise.  Apparently, in the case, at least some of the infringing material is alleged to have arrived through foreign trade.

      Or else it’s “because we can.” That seems to be the mode of law enforcement nowadays. 

      Obligatory authoritarianism: And law enforcement needs to be able to conduct arbitrary seizures like this to defend us from the terrorists. So quit complaining.

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