RIAA responds to Rep Lofgren’s criticism of ICE domain seizures

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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has issued a written response to Representative Zoe Lofgren, the California Congresswoman who suggested that the innocent victims of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s seizure and mistaken child pornography accusations of 84,000 websites last month should sue the US government.

It comes as no surprise that, in the letter, RIAA Executive VP Mitch Glazier dishes out more of his organization’s theory that piracy costs industry investors astronomical numbers of profits and jobs, seemingly using it as justification for ignoring due process and US citizens rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution:

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RIAA responds to Rep Lofgren's criticism of ICE domain seizures

“Online theft, particularly through websites dedicated to infringing our rights, is a terribly important issue for those who invest in the artists and music that entertains the world. Online theft has cost our industry, the broader entertainment community, and our economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.”

Glazier then goes on to spread the notion that because someone is running an online business where there could be some legally questionable activity occurring, whether directly or indirectly related, they don’t deserve protection of their basic rights under the constitution:

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As notable First Amendment scholar, Floyd Abrams, stated last month in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee with reference to such seizures, “Copyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment. Entities ‘dedicated to infringing activities’ are not engaging in speech that any civilized, let alone freedom-oriented, nation protects. That these infringing activities occur on the Internet makes them not less, but more harmful.””

He also defends the so-called “due process” that Homeland Security Investigations has used in determining which domains to shut down, despite the fact that they’ve admitted to serious errors in the actions that led to tens of thousands of wrongful child pornography accusations:

“Finally, claims regarding a lack of due process under U.S. statutory procedure remain unfounded. The sites targeted by the government are reviewed by investigators, U.S. Attorneys, and judges. There is a thorough analysis and prosecutorial discretion is exercised by several parties. There has been no rush to judgment. And, as you noted at the hearing, an aggrieved party can always challenge a wrongful seizure under due process provisions set in statute – although it is noteworthy that so far none of the hundred sites seized for conducting illegal activity has chosen to do that.”

It is also worth noting that Glazier’s insistence that accused domain owners “can always challenge a wrongful seizure” is a bit of a joke when you examine the civil forfeiture process associated with the situation. Sure, they can challenge it, but not for approximately six months, the amount of time it seems to be taking for the ICE and US legal system to get around to processing all the paperwork and red tape that accompanies the domain seizures. For months, owners of seized domains are supposed to sit around waiting, while their questions remain unanswered? Please.

The point that outright theft and criminal behavior shouldn’t be protected under the United States Constitution is a good one, however there is a reason our forefathers created the Bill of Rights. If I’m not mistaken, that reason was to lend legitimacy to the legal process to avoid the type of witch hunts that result in hurting innocent people. The ICE really seems to be conducting one of those witch hunts with the “Operation in our Sites” and don’t seem to care how many innocent people are caught in the virtual crossfire. We’ve been saying this even before it came down to 80,000+ mistakenly tarnished images. Now it seems blatantly obvious, but RIAA and ICE officials apparently only see what they want to.

You can check out the Full letter from Glazier to Lofgren posted on DocStoc by TechDirt’s Mike Masnick.

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