With a Department Of Justice now stocked with RIAA and other entertainment industry lawyers, it surprised nobody that Uncle Sam is undertaking a broad new anti-piracy initiative. Coupled with recent rushed efforts to pass the new controversial COICA law
, a key part of that effort is the ability to seize and shut down any domains deemed dedicated to infringing activities. Over the weekend the Obama Administration apparently didn't need COICA, seizing the domains of several websites
, including BitTorrent search portal Torrent Finder
, whose owner was rather surprised:
"My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!" the exasperated owner of Torrent-Finder told TorrentFreak this morning. "I firstly had DNS downtime. While I was contacting GoDaddy I noticed the DNS had changed. Godaddy had no idea what was going on and until now they do not understand the situation and they say it was totally from ICANN," he explained.
As Torrent Freak notes, the website, which doesn't host any copyrighted files, has simply popped right back up again at another URL
, highlighting the often futile nature of these kinds of endeavors. The full list
of 77+ seized domains also included several websites selling knock off scarves, watches, NFL gear and other clothing. As Techdirt
notes, seizing the domains of search engines goes well beyond the Department Of Homeland Security's mandate;
For anyone who actually understands how the internet works (i.e., clearly not Homeland Security) this is a massively troubling move, suggesting that if Homeland Security doesn't like how your search engine works, it can simply seize your domain and put up a really scary looking graphic, claiming it has taken over your website...The whole thing seems highly questionable. Seizing domain names without a trial, and taking down sites that appear to be nothing more than search engines, rather than actually hosting infringing material, is a huge, dangerous step, which appears to have absolutely nothing to do with Homeland Security's mandate.
In addition to being a dubious and dangerous extension of Homeland Security's power for the benefit of copyright holders, pulling BitTorrent search engines offline doesn't appear to accomplish anything of note. It's simply an expensive game of whac-a-mole that consumes government resources better used elsewhere.