Illegal file sharing and counterfeit goods sites are in for a shock. The US Government has commenced a domain seizure programme in an attempt to close these illegal traders down.
According to CNet News, the seizures came after a Senate committee unanimously approved a controversial proposal earlier this month that would allow the government to pull the plug on Web sites accused of aiding piracy.
A division of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),is handling the crackdown.
Not surprisingly there are critics of this action. CBS News and CNET Technology Analyst Larry Magid says
“This is a very controversial practice, which of course is supported by companies in the video and motion picture and music business, but opposed by some civil rights activists and organizations who feel that it’s an improper use of government authority, because it’s shutting down an entire domain in an attempt to get at some allegedly infringing material”.
It also begs the question how effective such a programme of seizure actually is? Pirate Bay for example, is still up and running despite its principals being found guilty in a court of law.
In addition, to prosecute pirates there needs to be evidence and this resides on a server, not within a domain name.
Without a server no warrant can be issued and without a warrant, a prosecution cannot proceed. To try and do so without following this due process would seem to contravene the USA’s Fourth Amendment.
There a number of avenues available for site owners to circumvent these restrictions. The US Government can only seize US-registered domain names so there is nothing to stop a US citizen registering a site in an off shore registry.
The Internet will respond to such censorship by finding a way around it, a process which has become the norm. The pirates will no doubt do likewise.
In another court ruling, this time in the UK, it has been decided that news monitoring agencies will have to pay publishing companies foer the use of their web content.
According to The Telegraph which reported the verdict:
“Headlines are now considered separate literary works, and thus subject to copyright, which means that clients of aggregation websites that charge for a service will have to pay for a license in order to use headlines, links and short extracts from online stories”.