A U.S. federal judge in Nevada has ruled on a series of requests from luxury goods maker Chanel allowing the company to seize several hundred domain names thought to be selling counterfeit goods. For good measure, the ruling also forces all search engines and social media websites to censor mentions of the offending domains. The court specifically called out Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bing, Yahoo, and Google.
The troubling thing about the ruling is the apparent slapdash way the investigation was done. When Chanel added 228 sites to the nearly now 700-large pile in the case, it ordered merchandise from just three of them to verify it was fake. The remainder were deemed counterfeiters based on online investigations only. Oh, and all this was done by Chanel’s own private contractors. None of the owners of these domains were permitted to have a say before the decision.
Many have expressed concern that the judge in the case appears to have no awareness that the Internet is a global entity. Forcing sites like Facebook and Google to remove content affects everyone, not just those in his jurisdiction. Not to mention that some of the sites are hosted in other countries, and the registrars are under no obligation to hand over the keys to Chanel. Legal experts have also been skeptical that a court should even have the power to force de-indexing of websites. Looking forward to SOPA? What could go wrong?