After more than 90 legally questionable domain seizures for the non-crime of criminal contributory copyright infringement, the Department of Justice is facing its first suit from Puerto 80, the Spanish owners of Rojadirecta. The complaint tells the disturbing story of trying to discuss the seizure with the government and being ignored for months. Only after filing suit did the DOJ start returning phone calls, but even then the government's compromise was the illogical and impossible request that Rojadirecta's users never post a link to U.S. content. The New York Department of Homeland Security needs to take some Internet classes at their local community college.
Puerto 80 says the seizures of the mostly forum, discussion-based website's domains count as "prior restraint," a form of censorship and violation of the First Amendment. Violating First Amendment rights requires a much higher standard of evidence than what DHS had in its warrants, which were issued in the first place for a crime that doesn't, and never has, existed in U.S. law. While they're down at the CC, they might want to look into a basic law class.
In the meantime, the same DHS requested the extradition of college student Richard O’Dwyer from the UK for running linking site TVShack, despite the fact that, as with Puerto 80, sites similar to his have been found legal in domestic courts. O'Dwyer never visited the U.S., never hosted servers here, and—I can't seem to say this enough times—he faces extradition for something that isn't even criminal here. The case is driving questions in the UK parliament about its whole extradition treaty with the U.S.—just one more way DHS is unloading a clip into its own foot. Are the paranoid whims of big media companies really worth damaging the First Amendment, our relationship with two allies, and the credibility of our law enforcement?
Quinn Norton writes about copyright for Wired News and other publications.