Homeland Security Seizes Spanish Domain Name That Had Already Been Declared Legal (Techdirt)
Wednesday February 2nd, 2011
It appears that Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, and their incredibly sloppy domain seizure operations, have moved on to the next phase -- as was promised by both ICE boss, John Morton, and IP Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel. The timing on this one is particularly bizarre -- and politically stupid.
That's because the the domain seizure is for the Spanish streaming site Rojadirecta. Yes, ICE seized the domain name of a foreign company. And it gets worse. Rojadirecta is not just some fly-by-night operation run out of someone's basement or something. It's run by a legitimate company in Spain, and the site's legality has been tested in the Spanish courts... and the site was declared legal. The court noted that since Rojadirecta does not host any material itself, it does not infringe.
So, a full-on trial and legal process that took three years in a foreign country, and involved a series of appeals leading to a final judgment.... all totally ignored by a bunch of US customs agents.
You might think some folks in Spain would have a pretty serious issue with this move.
And the timing is especially ridiculous, given that the US has been pushing very, very hard for Spain to implement a new copyright law, driven in large part by Hollywood. With many in Spain already furious about US meddling in their own copyright laws, I can't imagine that having US customs agents reaching across the Atlantic to just out and out seize a Spanish company's domain name is going to go over very well.
Imagine if a Spanish law enforcement agency did that to a US company? How quickly would we see American politicians screaming about this "international incident." Yet, here we have Homeland Security reaching out to seize the domain name of a foreign company that has been explicitly declared legal, after going through a lengthy trial and appeals process in its native country. And, in typical Homeland Security fashion, no one bothered to contact the company and let them know or express its concerns. Instead, it just seized the domain.
I would imagine that doing so may upset Spanish citizenry even more than the attempt to rewrite copyright laws in Hollywood's favor.
And of course, it appears that, despite the serious questions raised about the last domain seizures, in particular of blogs with substantial non-infringing uses, ICE has also seized another blog, called StrikeGently, which appears to have included lots of other content. Yes, it did also include some links to downloads hosted on other sites, but did not host any content directly itself, and appears to have included plenty of other content beyond the links to downloads. Once again, no one is saying that the site is clearly legal. It may, in fact, be liable for inducement. However, that's something that's supposed to be determined at trial, and not after the government steps in with no notice whatsoever and takes the domain name away.
Apparently, Homeland Security and ICE have decided that the mistakes it made last time are so minor that it will repeat them again and again, even if it involves shutting down protected speech and interfering in international relations.