Menu Close

How the U.S. Government Was Able to Seize BitTorrent Domains Without Due Process

U.S. seizes domain names

By now, you’ve heard how the United States Department of Justice seized the domain names of several commercial websites that were accused of engaging in counterfeiting.  Among these were some file sharing sites.  If the seizure shocks your idea of fair play, you’re not alone.  How exactly did the U.S. government seize these domain names, without giving the site owners a chance to defend themselves?

Ars Technica has a fascinating article detailing the seizures.  In short, the government filed an affidavit to support the seizure request.  In that affidavit, the government trotted out data and statistics it had received from those in the movie and music business.  As Ars Technica reported,

[Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Andrew] Aeynolds doesn’t attempt to hide his obvious reliance on the content industries; his affidavit is littered with comments like, “according to the MPAA…” and “based on my participation in the investigation and my discussion with MPAA representatives…” In the end, ICE got its way; a US Magistrate Judge signed off on the seizure order, and the domain names,,,, and were seized and redirected to an ICE warning image.

Even more disturbing, the seizures do not appear to be part of any criminal case.  If they were, then perhaps an argument could be made that the seizures were similar to a seizure of physical property as part of a criminal investigation.  As Ars Techicna noted, though,

the case was closed after the order was executed. In searching the federal courts, we can find no evidence that these five sites are actually being prosecuted. The domains were simply seized, and while it did happen with a court order, the sites were not given any chance to respond and none appears to be forthcoming.

Wow.  Don’t confuse my feelings on theft of an author’s work.  It stinks.  If we want content creators to keep producing content, we need to find a way to make sure that they get paid.  Freeloaders are only shooting themselves in the foot in the long run.

But is this really how we want our government to go about doing business?  Should our government be able to seize a domain name, without giving a site owner a chance to defend himself?

Shame on you, freeloaders.  But even more so, shame on our government officials.  You’ve stained the reputation of the United States, and conveyed to the world, rightly or wrongly, that our leaders whore themselves out to an industry willing to pay enough money.

Now that I’ve effectively insulted those on both sides of the argument, let me know in the comments if I’m missing the boat here.  Where do you fall in this debate?

Undue process: how Uncle Sam seized BitTorrent domain names [Ars Technica]