DHS relied on bizarre legal reasoning and crappy evidence to seize “pirate” domains
Techdirt’s Mike Masnick enumerates the litany of crappy law, evidence, and assumptions behind the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to seize a group of music-blog and search-engine domains. The seizures were backed copyright industry lobbyists. The story should scare all of us: if you have a .com or .net domain, the US government is prepared to censor you on the evidence-free say-so of a corporate lobbyist from the copyright cartel.
It looks like the four blog/forum sites (RapGodFathers, OnSmash, Dajaz1 and RMX4U) and Torrent-Finder were all lumped together into a single warrant and affidavit. The affidavit was written by a Special Agent with ICE, named Andrew Reynolds, who indicates in the affidavit that he only recently graduated from college (he notes that he’s only been on the job for one year, but before that he was a “student trainee with the group”). Much of the affidavit relies heavily on the MPAA. This fits with what ICE assistant deputy director Erik Barnett said soon after the seizures, admitting that they basically just took what sites Hollywood said were a problem and seized them…
…In other words, the “support” that Agent Reynolds provides for why Torrent-Finder’s domain should be seized is that he claims that Torrent-Finder’s admin linked directly to infringing material. But that’s not true. Instead, the admin was simply pointing to a bunch of different news stories. Even worse, some of those news stories highlight why the claims of the MPAA, which Agent Reynolds relies upon, are simply made up — such as TorrentFreak’s story about comic artist Steve Lieber (which was actually based on a Techdirt story about how Steve Lieber embraced the so-called “pirates” and ended up making a lot more money — we later interviewed Steve about his experiences). The CNET article is all about the COICA law — which is about the legality of seizures like this one. How is that evidence of probable cause?
Even going beyond the fact that Agent Reynolds can’t seem to figure out that a search engine is different than a torrent tracker or a torrent hosting site, he also seems to think that linking to blog posts like the ones we write here is probable cause for criminal behavior. Holy crap! That’s just downright scary.