Affidavit for Seized Web Sites May Prove Misinformed Legal Process Occurred

By December 18, 2010
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Recently seized by the government, several Web sites were brought off-line due to possible copyright infringement. Released documentation sketches a possibly erroneous train of logic meant to target pirated media.

Just in time for Cyber Monday, 82 Web domain names were seized by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the Thanksgiving weekend last month. But only yesterday did  more information become available about how and why the agency effectively shut down a torrent-file search engine and several music blogs.

These Web sites were brought into a criminal investigation, and with the help of the seizure warrant affidavit, pieced together the story. Five of these domains, (the search engine site) and "hip-hop music blogs,,,, and" were explicitly dealt with in the Los Angeles Federal Court affidavit.

Because of statistics provided by the Motion Picture Association of America, the government seized the sites for possible involvement in violating intellectual property laws. Many of the other shut-down sites, as mentioned by the New York Times this week, sell imitation designer accessories, but the search engine and the music blogs are dealt with specifically in the recently released legal document. The same article states that the Recording Industry Association of America also helped ICE select offending sites.

Torrent Finder attorney, David Snead, argues that his client's site is simply a search engine. But the government has defended the procedure as protecting the economy. "The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers," said ICE Director John Morton.

TechDirt had a more editorial approach to these events. According to Mike Masnick, the MPAA numbers have been debunked, which describe lost revenue as having a "ripple effect" but rather, as he argues, redistribute to other spending categories. Additionally, he points out that some supposed Torrent Finder content was actually from another site called Torrent Freak. "But now that I've read the affidavit -- at least the part about Torrent Finder -- it's become clear that this is a colossal screwup on the part of Homeland Security, ICE and the US government, based on a freshly minted ICE agent who doesn't seem to understand the technology, being lead around by the nose by MPAA staff with an agenda."

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