Apparently All That Stuff About Needing SOPA To Go After Foreign Sites Was Bogus (Techdirt)
Wednesday November 28th, 2012
Tim covered the story of ICE doing its annual censorship binge in seizing domain names without adversarial hearings (as we still believe is required under the law). However, there were a couple of additional points worthy of a followup. First off, if you remember, one of the key reasons why we were told SOPA was needed was that for all of ICE's previous domain takedowns it was "impossible" for it to take down foreign domains. Except... as ICE's own announcement here shows that was completely untrue. It seems to have had no difficulty finding willing law enforcement partners around the globe to seize websites without any due process:
...recognizing the global nature of Internet crime, this year the IPR Center partnered with Europol, who, through its member countries, executed coordinated seizures of foreign-based top-level domains such as .eu, .be, .dk, .fr, .ro and .uk. This effort is titled Project Transatlantic and resulted in 31 domain name seizures. Yeah. Apparently it's possible for ICE to censor those sites if it actually does a little work and calls up its law enforcement pals. Another example of why SOPA was never necessary in the first place.
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center," said ICE Director John Morton. "Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world.
The other issue? ICE's own release shows that ICE appears to have no understanding of the intellectual property laws it's seeking to enforce. From that release:
During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products; including professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. If the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods were obtained from federal magistrate judges. Note the confusion (or ignorance) here. Counterfeits are about trademarks, not copyrights. Most of what they discuss are items covered by trademark. But then they say "if the copyright holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit." Yes, there may be some copyright claims mixed in here (especially with "DVD sets"), but for the most part this is about trademark. Why say "copyright holders" unless you're either willfully misrepresenting what's happening... or ignorant of the law you're supposedly helping to enforce?
We've complained before about ICE boss John Morton's apparent deliberate conflation of copyright and counterfeits in the past -- but usually it's just lumping them together. To confuse the two here, in an official release from a government group that's enforcing the law, suggests some serious problems. ICE is either ignorant of the law it's supposedly enforcing... or maliciously misrepresenting itself. That seems like a problem.