United States federal authorities have released court documents that show that the government seizure of popular hip hop website Dajaz1.com over claims of copyright infringement was extended for months due to the failure of copyright holders, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), to provide evidence of any wrongdoing, reports Wired. No charges were ever brought against the site.
The documents, held in secret for six months, were finally released this week at the request of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the California First Amendment Coalition, and Wired magazine.
Dajaz1 was originally shut down by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland security in November of 2010 for allegedly posting links to four “pre-release” tracks, according to the seizure application (pdf). Dajaz1’s attorney, Andrew Bridges, as well as the site’s owner, Andre Nasib, have both suggested that the tracks were provided by the record labels themselves.
“In other words, having goaded the government into an outrageous and very public seizure of the blog, the RIAA members refused to follow up and answer the government’s questions,” writes the EFF. “In turn, the government acted shamefully, not returning the blog or apologizing for its apparent mistake, but instead secretly asking the court to extend the seizure and deny Dajaz1 the right to seek return of is property or otherwise get due process.”
Dajaz1 was finally allowed to go back online 13 months later, in December of last year. But until now, it was not clear why the government had maintained control of the site. According to the newly released court documents, however, ICE received two “secret” extensions on the seizure, while it waited for the RIAA and other copyright holders to provide evidence that Dajaz1 had actually committed copyright infringement. There is currently no record in the court document to suggest the RIAA or others ever handed over evidence to support their claims.
Obviously, this case shows that the 2008 PRO-IP Act, which established the government’s right to seize domains, is broken. As it currently stands, the government is able to shut down a website without having a scrap of evidence that the site’s owners or operators did anything wrong.
To date, ICE has seized some 750 domains as part of Operation in Our Sites. The U.S. government maintains that it has the right to seize any domain ending in .com, .net, or .org, regardless of whether those sites are hosted or run outside the U.S.