Homeland Security Agent Unable to Explain Domain Seizure Standards

Ryan Whitwam

Homeland Security and ICE recent seized multiple domains that simply linked to pirated content. On NPR's Marketplace Tech Report today, an agent from Homeland Security was on to defend the raids . The legality of the action is dubious at best, and host Jon Moe pressed the agent with one simple question: if linking to pirated content gets you pulled from the Internet, what about Google?

Agent Hayes said ICE wouldn't be seizing Google's domain, but that comes as no surprise. He explained they are targeting sites that do not ensure their domain is free of links to infringing materials. The agent said their intent was not to go after the hundreds of infringing sites, but to go after the big linking sites to decrease piracy. Moe rightly responds, "Well, Google gets a lot of traffic." Hayes is of the opinion that search engines are different, but there is no rationale given. It gives the impression that government law enforcement is at the beck and call of the entertainment industry.

The same Google comparison has been made about torrent sites, which do not host content, but provide torrent files that direct torrent clients to the files. The feds seem perfectly happy to take those offline as well. It’s a bit of a double standard, but let's face facts. Google has lots of money and lawyers, and it employs a lot of people. A site that happens to link to a pirated video stream, that can be scrubbed from the Internet easily, cheaply, and to the cheers of the content owners.

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