The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency has been the Dirty Harry of the World Wide Web the past year or so, shooting its virtual guns and taking down websites playing host to copyrighted materials. Fire first and silly legal questions be damned! Now, the gung-ho nature of "Operation in Our Sites" (see what they did there?) could be coming back to haunt ICE. Puerto 80, the owner of Spanish sports site Rojadirecta.com, has petitioned the courts for the return of its seized website – and it has the EFF in its corner.
The EFF, along with Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology, filed an amici curiae brief with the Second District of New York court on Monday in support of Puerto 80's original filing. The case hinges on the the fact that Puerto 80 doesn't actually host any of the streamed video, ReadWriteWeb reports . Rojadirecta.com only links to the pirated streams and offers forums for watchers to discuss the videos. Sure, it's dubious morally, but is it illegal?
Puerto 80 and the EFF don't think so, and they're calling the seizure a violation of the First Amendment. Since Rojadirecta simply tells people about the streams, the rebuttal goes, cracking down on the site cracks down on free speech laws. If you want to get technical, Puerto 80 says the seizure "constitutes an unlawful prior restraint on speech, in violation of Puerto 80's First Amendment rights, and Puerto 80 will continue to suffer deprivation of its First Amendment rights if the property is not immediately returned."
Will Puerto 80 and the EFF be successful? Only time will tell. Torrent site operators and government officials alike must be watching this petition like a hawk, though. If simply linking to a site that hosts copyrighted content can get your domain yanked, half the pages on the Internet could find themselves closed down over night.
Edited to include Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology's involvement in the petition.