This Is All Kinds Of Wrong of the Day: Last year, as part of Operation In Our Sites — a joint initiative by the Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ostensibly seize the domains of websites hosting copyright infringing material — the popular hip hop music blog Dajaz1.com was taken offline for allegedly posting pirated music.
One small hitch though: The songs ICE claimed were illegally obtained were actually sent to Dajaz1 by the artists and labels that produced the tracks.
The site’s owner, a Queens man who goes by “Splash,” sent the New York Times proof that he was being repeatedly solicited by record label execs and third-party marketers who sought to have their clients’ music posted on the site. “It’s not my fault if someone at a record label is sending me the song,” he said.
Indeed, the government eventually backed down from its claim, and returned the domain to its rightful owner, but not before an entire year had passed, and the value of the site decreased dramatically.
Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for ICE, refused to elaborate on what took so long, beyond telling Ars Technica that “the government concluded that the appropriate and just result was to decline to pursue judicial forfeiture.”
Splash’s attorney, Andrew Bridges, recounted to Techdirt how the government was able to hold onto the site indefinitely by claiming it had received extensions on the window during which it is required to proceed with the forfeiture process or else return the domain.
When he asked to review the extensions he was told they were sealed and could not be released.
An RIAA rep doesn’t think much of what Splash was subjected to, as it still believes the site trafficked in pre-release copies not authorized for commercial distribution.
While Dajaz1 did on occasion make certain songs available for download which it was not explicitly authorized to post, it complied immediately with take-down requests, according to Bridges. Also, as Techdirt points out, the songs used by ICE in the affidavit which allowed it to seize the site in the first place were legally posted after being supplied to Splash by the labels themselves.
“[I]f the RIAA takes the position that none of this music came from music industry reps, by that I mean label reps or artist reps, then that has more to do with the RIAA awareness of what’s going on in its own industry,” said Bridges.
At the crux of this cautionary tale is the fact that ICE was allowed to seize the site’s domain without due process thanks to the PRO-IP Act of 2008.
Legislation to expand ICE’s authority to indefinitely detain domains it suspects of conducting criminal activity is currently making its way through both houses of Congress.
As the Dajaz1 case clearly illustrates, giving the government even more power to censor any site it pleases for as long as it pleases without any concern for Constitutional amendments being trampled in the process is probably, to say the least, not a very good idea.