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US government swoops on domain names

EFF complains about seizures
Mon Sep 26 2011, 09:42

ONLINE RIGHTS GROUP the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is appealing against the seizure of two domain names by the US government.

The domain names, and, are owned by Spanish company Puerto 80, or at least they were before the US government seized them under a customs and immigration service operation called "Operation In Our Sites".

The operation is designed to stop copyright infringement. The EFF says that seizing the domain names is a violation of First Amendment rights and, in support of the parent company, has asked a federal appeals courts to return the domain names to their original owners.

The US government targeted the web sites because they offered links to live streams of sporting events, the EFF explains, but blocking them is preventing users from accessing other features. These, which include forums, discussions and how-to guides, are the problem, because, the EFF said, Spanish courts have already found that the parent company is not violating copyright law.

"Domain name seizures are blunt instruments that cause unacceptable collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman.

"Web site operators must have the confidence that government actions ostensibly targeting copyright infringement are undertaken legally. We urge the Court of Appeals to ensure that that happens."

Puerto 80 has reached out to ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) already and attempted to retrieve its web sites without court involvement. This, as well as a petition to a district judge, was refused. Its latest request sees Puerto 80 appealing to the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals.

"ICE's domain name seizures, including this one, are occurring without meaningful court oversight, with no chance for the targets to defend themselves before their websites are taken down and a highly cumbersome process for challenge afterwards," added EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry. "The government should stop these seizures until they comply with the law." µ


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