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 dajaz1.com, a hiphop site that posted music that it received from record labels for that purpose, became widely known. Dajaz1.com'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 dajaz1.com, 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 Dajaz1.com 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