Scorching legal response from Dajaz1.com to the unsealed US gov't docs on the illegal, sleazy seizure of its domain name
Mel from Dajaz1.com -- the hiphop blog that was seized for a year by the US government on the basis of a false and unsubstantiated copyright claim from the RIAA -- has posted the site's lawyer's memo, officially calling out the US government for its illegal participation in the RIAA's sloppy shakedown. Fenwick and West's Andrew P Bridges doesn't mince words, either:
The owner of Dajaz1.com appreciates the fact that the United States Government, on studying the matter further with all the information the RIAA could furnish, determined that there was in fact no probable cause to seek a forfeiture of the domain it had seized and held for a year.
That exoneration, however, did not remedy the harms caused by a full year of censorship and secret proceedings — a form of “digital Guantanamo” — that knocked out an important and popular blog devoted to hip hop music and has nearly killed it.
The original seizure was unjustified. The delay was unjustified. The secrecy in extensions of the forfeiture deadlines was unjustified.
Five details are notable here.
First, the seizure occurred pursuant to language the PRO-IP Act authorizing seizures of property used in connection with the making of, or trafficking in, “articles” in violation of copyright law. In that context, “articles” are physical items. The law does not authorize seizure of domains that link to other sites. So from the beginning this seizure was entirely legally unjustified, no matter what the allegations about infringement...
Second, seizing a blog for linking to four songs, even allegedly infringing ones, is equivalent to seizing the printing press of the New York Times because the newspaper, in its concert calendar, refers readers to four concerts where the promoters of those concerts have failed to pay ASCAP for the performance licenses.
Third, RIAA’s grand and sweeping attacks on dajaz1.com suggest that RIAA’s powers of demonization far exceed its ability to substantiate its malicious statements with specific and credible facts.
Fourth , when I explained that the blog publisher had received music from the industry itself, a government attorney replied that authorization was an “affirmative defense” that need not be taken into account by the government in carrying out the seizure. That was stunning.
Fifth, when discussing the secret extensions with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, I repeatedly asked the government attorney to inform the court that my client opposed any further extensions and asked for an opportunity to be heard. Not once did the government reveal those requests or positions to the court. The government should be embarrassed for keeping that information from the court.
This entire episode shows that neither the government nor the recording industry deserves any additional powers with new so-called “antipiracy” legislation, especially in the context where copyright law has been expanded and new anti-piracy remedies have been crafted ***16 times*** since 1982. This episode shows that the copyright establishment and the government are very much the “rogues” that deserve to be reined in.
Court records unsealed for dajaz1.com seizure, reveal that US Customs operated as hired thugs for the RIAA
Remember the seizure of Dajaz1.com, a hiphop blog that posted all kinds of music clips that record company promoters (and even CEOs) begged them to post? The one that was shut down for a year on a trumped-up copyright charge that was quietly dropped without explanation? Now we have an explanation.
Rebecca from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "After a year-long seizure and six more months of secrecy, the court records were finally released concerning the mysterious government takedown of Dajaz1.com -- a popular blog dedicated to hip hop music and culture. The records confirm that one of the key reasons the blog remained censored for so long is that the government obtained three secret extensions of time by claiming that it was waiting for 'rights holders' and later, the Recording Industry Association of America, to evaluate a 'sampling of allegedly infringing content' obtained from the website and respond to other 'outstanding questions.'"
Update: Mel from Dajaz1.com in the comments asks me to remind you that the site is back. It deserves your attention.
Now that the full court records are out, this seizure raises critical questions about the government’s use of its new powers to shut down lawful speech in the form of domain seizures for alleged copyright infringements. It also demonstrates the basic unfairness of the processes and secrecy invoked here and possibly in hundreds of other domain name seizures across the country. For nearly a year, the government muzzled Dajaz1.com – denying the blog’s author the right to speak and the public’s right to read what was published there – and then compounded matters by claiming extreme secrecy and blocking the Dajaz1 and the public’s access to information about the case.
Equally troubling, the records confirm what was already suggested by the initial affidavit used to obtain the seizure order: that ICE, and its attorneys, are effectively acting as the hired gun of the content industry at taxpayers' expense. Instead of relying on rightsholders to determine whether a seizure was appropriate, the government should have been conducting its own thorough investigation. If it had acted in anything like good faith, it could have determined that the site wasn't a proper target even before the seizure, or at least could have discovered and rectified the mistake before a year had passed.