Feds Seize 9 Domains For Copyright Infringement, But Based On What Law?

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal authorities seized 9 domain names of sites that were offering pirated movies.

The nine domain names were registered using U.S.-based registrars, allowing authorities to take control of their site addresses.

Some of the sites themselves were  run on computers based in the U.S, in Colorado, Florida and Illinois, but others used computers based in Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the Czech Republic.

The domain names seized according to the report were:

TVSHACK.NET, MOVIES-LINKS.TV, FILESPUMP.COM, NOW-MOVIES.COM, PLANETMOVIEZ.COM, THEPIRATECITY.ORG, and ZML.COM, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net.

These sites allegedly allowed visitors to stream or download popular television shows and movies.

The report did not cite under what law the domain names were seized.

As far as I know there is no federal law that allows the seizure of domain names.

That of course is the troubling part.

Although I have no love for sites that allow the distribution of protected works for free, when the federal government starts making up their own remedies for violation of laws, its a problem.

Moreover all that happened here was a claim by the government of improper conduct by the site.

There does not appear to been a hearing where any of the domain owners got notice or what you would call due process, which is an opportunity to defend themselves prior to the domain seizure

It was almost two years ago that the Governor of Kentucky ordered 141 gambling domains seized.

That case is still pending.

It is unclear whether the domains could have or would have been seized as quickly had they been registered with a non-US registrar.

The following notice is now on at least of the seized domains, zml.com:

Comments

  1. John Berryhill says

    The law you are looking for is 18 USC 2323 (which, incidentally, is referenced in the notice posted to the web page(s) in question):

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002323—-000-.html

    ——
    (a) Civil Forfeiture.—

    (1) Property subject to forfeiture.—

    The following property is subject to forfeiture to the United States Government:

    (A) Any article, the making or trafficking of which is, prohibited under section 506 of title 17, or section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of this title.

    (B) Any property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part to commit or facilitate the commission of an offense referred to in subparagraph (A).

    ——

    The reference to 17 USC 506 is the criminal copyright section:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/usc_sec_17_00000506—-000-.html

    —-
    (a) Criminal Infringement.—

    (1) In general.— Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed—

    (A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;

    (B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180–day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or

    (C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.

    —-

    The civil forfeiture statute covers any property used in the commission of any of the specified offenses. There’s “no law” that says the feds can take your boat if you are caught smuggling cocaine either, but there doesn’t need to be since Section 2323 broadly covers just about anything used to facilitate any of the specified offenses.

    Of course, this is yet another consequence of the “domain names should be property” argument, about which I seem never to have been able to convince folks that treatment as a service contract is preferable in most instances.

  2. Bill says

    It’s all about money. That’s what it comes down to. This will seem quite silly 20 years from now when a third of the world’s population is out of drinking water and the tundra has warmed up just a bit more–enough to start releasing all it’s trapped methane into the atmosphere–and all but four of the world’s largest cities are chillin below the high tide. Learn to swim.

  3. MHB says

    John

    But don’t the forfeiture laws require due process and a finding of violation after a case is brought?

    This can be done unilaterally just based on the accusation of the government?

  4. John Berryhill says

    “But don’t the forfeiture laws require due process and a finding of violation after a case is brought?”

    I’m no expert in that area, but if they have a warrant to seize your car for transporting illegal drugs, my impression is that they keep it until there is no longer probable cause to hold you over on the underlying drug smuggling charge.

    But it’s not as if they’ll leave your meth lab set up in your basement pending trial, so long as they had a warrant for seizure, supported by probable cause, sworn to a judge, and issued by a court.

  5. NinjaVideo says

    To all whom are concerned,

    Yesterday, a saddening act happened to our community. Ninjavideo.net was seized by the ICE for the illegal distribution of copyright materials. We have lived in the shadow of such action for over two years.

    Today, the world has lost a collection of media that many will never be able to access again. Today, we have lost a database which not only shared media, but which introduced people around the world to media which they may not ever have heard of if it were not for Ninjavideo. Today, we have lost a place where media was not restrained by the subscription fee you pay, by the channels available on your meagre little box, or by international boundaries.

    Americans have lost the ability to watch BBC documentaries once again. Brits have lost the ability to watch American sitcoms without waiting and having to pay extra. The rest of the world has lost the ability to watch programs not filtered by their countries’ respective tastes, choices, or budget limitations. Today, we have lost a friend.

    We have lost the ability to search for new experiences without having to pay for the freedom. The entertainment industry is the one who deserves the privilege of our attention. We should be able to choose what to support before we give it money. You are again forcing us to pay for the freedom to browse before we buy. And many of us buy. And many more of us would buy if we were able.

    Yet ability, nor care, nor freedom is in this equation.

    We, as loyal fans, as dedicated artists and commentors, as consumers of your best and despisers of your worst, should be free to give when we are able and willing, and not be subjugated when you are able and unwilling.

    Listen to our voice, our manifesto, our hopes and dreams for a future where music is given, as Radiohead have shown us, where films are shown, as London Free Film shows us, and where TV has no boundaries, as The Daily Show allows.

    Please, take a moment to listen to us.
    We have taken more than enough of our time listening to you.

    Manifesto mp3: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=CCKTBMS0

    Manifesto PDF: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=UEROOBGG

    Spread the word.

    With utmost sincerity,
    The NinjaVideo Community
    For it is in giving that we receive.

  6. MHB says

    RKB interesting point

    A site that resided on one of those seized domains immediately relaunches under a ccTLD in a other than a G20 nation like the .cc extension.

    Can it avoid the whole problem?

  7. MHB says

    RKB

    Verisign appearently does provide the backend for the .cc registry

    “””A registry is a company or organization that maintains the master database of domain names that all end with the same Top Level Domain (TLD), such as .com. There are approximately 250 registries around the globe. VeriSign, Inc., maintains the registry for domain names ending in .com, .net, .tv, .cc, .jobs and .edu.

    “””

    http://www.namesbeyond.com/index.php/tld/dotcc_registry

    Maybe they should have picked a ccTLD that maintains their own backend

  8. MHB says

    John

    Thinking back on the Max Hardcore case, I think the government didn’t seize his domains until after his trial and he was convicted.

    Has the government changed direction and gone to a grab first and ask questions later mentality?

  9. says

    They came for my neighbor and I did not complain.

    Then another.

    When they came for me, there was no one left to complain.

    Something like that.

    This is pretty scary stuff.

    Don’t forget that enom siezed hundreds of domains owned by an Brit living in Spain just for reserving hotel rooms in Cuba.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/04bar.html

    That was a few years ago and he still does not have his domains back.

    What was his crime?

  10. John Berryhill says

    Max Hardcore was an obscenity case. The forfeiture statute cited above is limited to:

    “section 506 of title 17, or chapter 90section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of this title”

    That is copyright infringement and a couple of counterfeiting statutes.

    But, in general, seizure of criminal instrumentalities pending trial is pretty normal. If you are busted driving a stolen car, they don’t let you pay bail and hand you the stolen car back to drive around in while awaiting trial.

  11. MHB says

    Rob

    Good point

    Forgot about that one & I wrote about it

    His crime was his domains were on the governments “list” of sites engaged in business with Cuba.

    Of course not being an American there is not wrong with that except he chose to use a US registrar, had he used a non-US registrar he would still have his domain and be in business.

  12. says

    “had he used a non-US registrar he would still have his domain and be in business.”

    domains, plural.

    Enom seized about 200 domains, no notice and no process for him to get the domains back as far as I know.

  13. John Berryhill says

    “What was his crime?”

    The Spanish guy didn’t commit any crime. There weren’t “hundreds” of domain names though. Under the US laws implementing the boycott of Cuba, however, any assets in the US which are used in the course of conducting economic activity with Cuba are subject to seizure.

    The domain names were the subject of a registration contract having a situs in the US, and were being used for selling Cuba travel packages. While this is perfectly legal outside of the United States, you can’t use facilities IN the United States for that purpose. Accordingly, the domain names, registered at Enom, were seized by the Treasury Department (which enforces certain aspects of the embargo).

    This stuff can get pretty weird:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/14/business/wal-mart-canada-is-putting-cuban-pajamas-back-on-shelf.html

    “Caught in the no-win position of violating American law or violating Canadian law, Wal-Mart Stores’ Canadian unit said today that it had decided to resume sales of pajamas made in Cuba, in direct defiance of American laws that seek to isolate the Government of Fidel Castro.”

  14. John Berryhill says

    “We have lost the ability to search for new experiences without having to pay for the freedom.”

    I said the same thing when I got busted for shoplifting.

  15. R.M. says

    Interesting we are discussing the overbearing reach of gov’t
    with the 4th of July on Sunday.

    I wonder what our founding fathers would do?

  16. MHB says

    RH

    I don’t think the founding father quite anticipated the internet however I think this grab first ask questions later mentality is some of the actions they left England to avoid

  17. John Berryhill says

    “I wonder what our founding fathers would do?”

    Well, the first thing they might do is to put the following line in the Constitution:

    “The Congress shall have Power [...]
    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

    …thus authorizing copyright laws.

    The second thing they might do is to put in the Fourth Amendment, under which property cannot be seized without a warrant sworn before a judge and providing probable cause for seizure.

    The warrant in this case was issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. (http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/June10/websitedomainnameseizurepr.pdf)

    After deciding that the copyright laws are Constitutionally authorized, and that the seizure was made pursuant to a warrant issued under the Fourth Amendment, the founding fathers would have a chuckle at your question and get back to the business of capturing runaway slaves.

  18. Bruce says

    Trying buying a movie online and they alter your operating system, download adware to your computer. You need to beg them to cancel your credit card subscrib trial period. These websites should have been given a medal of honor instead of a seize.

  19. says

    I would be more concerned why domainers always think they (or other) domainers are the always the innocent victim.

    “As far as I know there is no federal law that allows the seizure of domain names.

    That of course is the troubling part.”

    No, that is not the troubling part.

    For me, the troubling part is someone immediately coming to the defense of another domainer as if there is a blood-oath or bond not to be broken.

    To pretend this person was not (and is not) breaking any law is foolish, just as foolish as proclaiming someone knowing no law allowing the seizure of domain names when those names are used in the commission of and transmitting of criminal acts.

    I think domainers need to quit always looking at themselves as the innocent victim because, quite frankly, I am not familiar with any law protecting a domainer which allows them to freely reg any name and use it for any purpose.

    From what I have seen, there is more laws passed and pending passage protecting the consumer from domainers than there are laws protecting domainers from the consumer.

    There must be a logical (and legal) reason for that, eh?

  20. MHB says

    DN

    First of all these 9 domains were not owned by “Domainers”.

    So I’m in no way defending domainers here, domainers are not at issue.

    Moreover and let me be very clear, I’m not defending these sites.

    I’m not in favor or in no way support privacy or thief of intellectual property.

    I am as a former attorney, questioning how authorities can seize property, in this case domain names, of people on the basis of an allegation without given the involved parties a right to be heard and represented at a court proceeding which is my idea of due process.

    That’s it

    This case has NOTHING to do with Domainers.

  21. R.M. says

    I agree with Michael.

    I do not support illegal actions.
    But, I feel we have the right to due process.

    And, I am concerned about losing constitutional rights for myself and my childrens childrens, inch by inch.

  22. R.M. says

    Presently, ThePirateCity,org whois displays homeland security.

    Before June 30,2010 it was in privacy for the past 16 months.
    And, before privacy it displayed a russian address for approx. 6 months.
    Before the russian address, it had a canadian address for 2 days just after creation date (Aug, 08).

    Maybe, one of the other domains have a french address. I didn’t check.

  23. carol says

    very selfishly, I’m bummed about the money I lost in my account on TMZ. I am not afraid to say it, since I had no freakin’ idea they were selling pirated movies. I was just heading there to download a movie for the night and heard this….sniff. I want my money back….

  24. Joe says

    So what happens to the customer information that was seized with the domains. Credit card info, addresses etc. Can they use this to incriminate people who used the service?

  25. NootkaBear says

    @MGB

    “But don’t the forfeiture laws require due process and a finding of violation after a case is brought?
    This can be done unilaterally just based on the accusation of the government?”

    If everyone remembers, Zuccarini was arrested for something that was not yet a crime, and he did time for it.

    The govt. apparently can do as they damn well please.

  26. CyberPrincess says

    Fine, they can take 9 down and in DAYS 15 will be back up. I think what ICE did is pointless at best, some sites broke rules and only had content up to make money. NinjaVideo on the other hand honestly wanted to educate people about the world, arts and music, they gave everyone who viewed that site a chance to learn from other as well as promote themselves. It is a loss, but we still have other options till they make it back up, and trust me, they will.

    Other people posted 2 sites that are back up and then we have
    http://re1ease.net/
    and the lovely
    http://icefilms.info

    The worst part about this is the fact that the young people who run Ninja are in MUCH more trouble then other site owners. The government is freaky at best, they make the rules as they go and do anything they want. We should all move to Canada!

  27. Johnwu says

    what i want to know is if it is illegal to use such sites, since it is apparently illegal to host them.
    any body with some advice on this, it would be a great help :)

Join the Discussion