Earlier today I received a comment/question regarding the shut down of 75+ sites for allegedly pirating music and videos that was the subject of this blog on November 27th, http://wp.me/pY51c-bG. The question basically asked what legal basis did the Feds have, use or employ to legally shut down these sites. While I had researched the issues for the original blog, I had not uncovered any warrant or other citing information regarding the Fed’s actions. All of the mainstream media acted like this was a normal event and it was perfectly OK for the government to send ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in and shut down private web sites and seize the operator’s bank and other assets. So, when I received this comment today, I went back out and researched this action further. The following is my response to the comment.
“Good question. The Federal Investigation is named “Operation in Our Sites.” Piracy of copyrighted materials is typically covered by DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and other statutes relating to copyright infringement. Violations are usually litigated in civil court. As a software provider, we have had to litigate suspected piracy a few times. This case where the Federal Government directly shuts down the site is unprecedented as far as I can tell.
That said: RICO statutes, Patriot Act, Interstate Commerce Laws, and other peripheral types of criminal enforcement tools may have been used to go after internet sites that the Federal Government “deems inappropriate”. The sites were not only shut down but their banks accounts and other assets were seized. This implies that a judge pre-approved this action but I absolutely cannot find any sourcing for either the court order, or the law citing the violations. I will keep researching and post an updated article as soon as I can. The fact that ICE is the enforcement agency over copyright infringement is interesting so one would assume the Feds are using some type of customs law but that normally applies to items brought into the US from foreign soil?
The bottom line is the piracy is bad and costs all of us a lot of money every year. I am not too keen on the Government walking in and shutting down domains and websites. I am not to keen on the Government even having the ability to shut down web sites without a lot of public oversight (us not Congress). Keep an eye on Congress, there are a lot of bills floating around that will give the Fed even more power over managing or taking down all or portions of the internet…”
It is very disappointing that this event did not receive the media attention it deserves. I wonder if the New York Times would have shrugged this off if it had been their website? After all, they publish classified materials all of the time. FDR would have certainly shut them down for this during WWII. I guess because it was done to protect Hollywood and the entertainment industry, the Fed action justified the means…
Here are some reference sites regarding Copyright Piracy (copyright infringement):
See: Digital Millennium Copyright Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act
Chapter 5 Definitions: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html