Civil forfeiture finally filed for domains seized by US Gov in June

If history repeats itself, it appears that the owners of 82 domains seized by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) may have to wait another five months to be able to take the next step toward recovering those domains.

According to a report on TechDirt.com, the ICE and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York staged a takedown of nine movie piracy sites back in June of 2010, and just got around to filing a complaint for civil forfeiture on December 9th.

Civil forfeiture finally filed for domains seized by US Gov in June

The domains in question during the June “Operation In Our Sites” initiative included TVshack.net, Movies-Link.tv, ZML.com, Now-movies.com, ThePirateCity.org, PlanetMoviez.com, Filespump.com. All have been labeled as “linking” or “cyber-locker” websites by the ICE, and were taken over by the government agency after an agent conducting investigations was able to download first-run movies that were not yet “legally available online.”

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While there is nothing particularly notable about the forfeiture complaint itself, the process the DHS is following in order to complete these missions is an interesting one. It appears to go like this:

1.       The MPAA and RIAA complain about a website

2.       ICE agents use the site in question and end up downloading infringing content

3.       DHS seizes the domains, whether they were hosting content or not

4.       Site owners have to wait several weeks to find out what they’ve done wrong

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5.       Six months after the seizure, the domain owner can finally contest the action

6.       Site owners have already opened up shop on another domain

The problem here isn’t that the government is taking down alleged pirate sites, but rather the methods they are using to accomplish the task. While it’s taking six-months to file an official forfeiture notice, owners of sites like Torrent-Finder and RapGodfathers.com, who are running legally compliant businesses are left trying to rebuild their business from scratch because a trade group complained.

Also, if you’re thinking that this process sounds like a ridiculously inefficient waste of government resources, you’re not alone. Site owners have never been charged with any crime, so those who are running illegal sites dealing pirated content or counterfeit merchandise are free to do it all over again.

But hey, at least the DHS has a good story for the nightly news every few months, right? I’m sure we all feel much safer now.

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