US Homeland Security reveals “evidence” for domain seizures

There is finally some explanation as to why the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) seized the domains of several popular music blogs and BitTorrent aggregators. The owners of these sites were completely caught off guard by the action, and have been asking for answers since the raids took place three weeks ago.

Unfortunately, the answers that appear in the ICE affidafit, which was signed by US Magistrate Judge Margaret A. Nagle on November 17th, don’t really provide a solid justification for the raids that took place on the five specified domains, including Rapgodfathers.com and Torrent-Finder.com.

US Homeland Security reveals "evidence" for domain seizures

Despite the lack of justification, however, the affidavit does provide a couple of interesting revelations:

–          The US government agencies involved in the seizures relied on the testimony of Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) representatives when determining that the sites were breaking copyright laws.

–          The ICE agent whose signature appears on the affidavit downloaded copyrighted material using torrent aggregators and provided that as a basis of evidence for the case.

Perhaps one of the most telling pieces of information included in the document is this statement from the ICE agent:  “I believe that each of these websites are actively facilitating the distribution of pirated content. Based on the investigation, it appears that website administrators and/or representatives from each of these five websites supply access to, and advertising for, the pirated content via their websites and/or provide access for any Internet users to download such pirated content.”

MPAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman downplayed the organizations role in the raids when responding to inquiries submitted by paidcontent.org. “Like any rightsholder, we investigate cases of theft of our intellectual property. We report that to the authorities and they decide what appropriate action should be taken,” she said, and declined further comment.

All of this only supports the speculation that these entertainment industry organizations are exploiting a legal grey-area to suit their profit margins without regard to the future implications of their actions. If hosting a system that provides search results equates to “facilitating the distribution of pirated content”, Google, Bing, and other search engines had better get ready to do some serious censoring of their returned results. Also, record labels are going to have to realize that it’s not a good idea to rat out the sites that they’re using to “leak” their own artists’ tracks.