Mistakenly Seized Sites Should Sue Government, Says Congresswoman

If someone labeled your business as being connected to child pornography, when it fact it had nothing to do with child porn, would you sue for defamation? What if that someone who tarnished your reputation with child porn-related accusations was the federal government? Well one congresswoman believes you should sue. In fact, I found her outspokenness both refreshing and amusing and wanted to share it with you in case you missed it.

In the past, after blogs simply linked to news about file sharing and were shutdown, I shared my thoughts on the twisted evidence of ICE domain seizures and the possibility of P2P DNS as an alternative system. Since President Obama has repeatedly filled Justice Department positions with former RIAA attorneys and nominated a previous RIAA attorney for solicitor general, it's not too often you see a public figure in a public meeting being quite so blunt with her opinions of our governments' way of dealing with copyright infringement and piracy. U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren amused me.

Lofgren suggested that instead of going after the little fish, there is a big problem of commercial piracy that needs to be dealt with, despite the "chicken poo" reports by copyright enforcement officials to the contrary.

Rep. Lofgren didn't stop there. Last week, during a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet, Lofgren questioned the Obama administration's Intellectual Property Czar Victoria Espinel about the legality of Homeland Security domain seizures. Specifically, Lofgren questioned the "due process" in regard to "Operation Protect Our Children" when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) confiscated 84,000 website addresses by "mistake" on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. Each of those websites then displayed the banner below.

TorrentFreak explained the problem was when the government seized the domain mooo.com "which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at afraid.org and as a result of the authorities' actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well. "

At the time, according to The Register, Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, claimed our government had gone rogue. "Our government is going into court with half-baked facts and half-baked legal theories and shutting down operations," Goldman said. "This is exactly what we thought the government couldn't do. I'm scratching my head why we aren't' grabbing the pitchforks."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren seems to agree that ICE was out of line and abused due process. During a Silicon Valley legal conference, Lofgren said ICE takedowns involved no due process and apparently had no regard for the "First Amendment or fair use."

Lofgren had the opportunity to question IP Czar Victoria Espinel about the domain seizures. According to Espinel, the government "really cares" about the First Amendment and claimed there was due process before the domains were seized. Lofgren's reply to Espinel's claim about due process was so elegant that I'll quote Techdirt who quotes Lofgren.

With all due respect, judges sign a lot of things... For example, the FreeDNS takedown -- it wasn't a copyright enforcement, but "supposedly" a child pornography enforcement -- ICE took down 84,000 websites of small business people that have nothing to do with child pornography at all. And put up a little banner saying "this was taken down for child pornography." Really smearing them. If I were them, I'd sue the Department. These were just small businesses. They had nothing to do with anything, and yet a judge signed that. So, if that's the protection, it's no protection. I want to know, what is the Department doing to think about the affirmative defenses, to think about -- yes, there's piracy, and all of us are united that we gotta do something about piracy -- but there's also a First Amendment that you should be considering when you go and destroy a small business. Are you thinking about that?

In other copyright protection news, a new report, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, by the Social Science Research Council, was based on three years of work by 35 independent researchers studying piracy. The report claims that music, movie and software piracy flourishes because prices in legal markets are not affordable for people within emerging countries. It also found that law enforcement and anti-piracy education have failed. Researchers discovered there are no "systematic links between media piracy and organized crime or terrorism in any of the countries examined."

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