Be Careful Who You Link To: ICE May Shut You Down
Imagine waking up and logging on to your blog and finding this notice:
"This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court."
ICE and Homeland Security shut down a number of websites Friday (perhaps as many as 70) because of their "association" to online movie and music piracy. Apparently, the sites don't need to be a participant in the activity, just associated with it. Is linking to one of them enough? According to one site's owner, it was: [More...]
Waleed A. GadElKareem, who operated Torrent Finder from Egypt, said his site was shut down on Thursday without any notice.
“My Web site does not even host any torrents or direct-link to them,” Mr. GadElKareem wrote in an e-mail, adding that he only links to other sites. “I am sure something is wrong!”
EFF says beware of this bill which just passed a Senate Committee last week:
The "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA) is an Internet censorship bill which is rapidly making its way through the Senate. Although it is ostensibly focused on copyright infringement, an enormous amount of noninfringing content, including political and other speech, could disappear off the Web if it passes.
The main mechanism of the bill is to interfere with the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates names like "www.eff.org" or "www.nytimes.com" into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. The bill creates a blacklist of censored domains; the Attorney General can ask a court to place any website on the blacklist if infringement is "central" to the purpose of the site.
There are already laws and procedures in place for taking down sites that violate the law. This act would allow the Attorney General to censor sites even when no court has found they have infringed copyright or any other law.
The government's rationale:
In announcing that operation, John T. Morton, the assistant secretary of ICE, and representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America called it a long-term effort against online piracy, and said that suspected criminals would be pursued anywhere in the world. “American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates every day, seven days a week,” Mr. Morton said. “Criminals are stealing American ideas and products and distributing them over the Internet.”
Yesterday's shut-down may or may not be tied to a similar operation in June, called "Operation in Our Sites."
In the first action carried out as part of the initiative, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of Web sites that were offering first-run movies, often within hours of their theatrical release. Seven of those sites were targeted for seizure by the SDNY. Agents from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) also seized assets from 15 bank, Paypal, investment and advertising accounts, and executed four residential search warrants in several states.
Under the proposed law, EFF says:
Sites that discuss and advocate for P2P technology or for piracy, like pirate-party.us, p2pnet, InfoAnarchy, Slyck and ZeroPaid: while these sites contain a great deal of news and political speech, they also regularly link to tools and information intended for file sharing, and the DOJ could well decide that infringement is "central" to their purpose and take the entire sites offline. That outcome would be fundamentally contradictory to freedom of speech.
So where does this leave You Tube and bloggers who embed music videos from it and similar sites?
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