Federal Government: domains are property

In June of last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced the launch of “Operation In Our Sites” – an initiative aimed at Internet counterfeiting and piracy.

According to the official web site, ICE.gov:

“ICE and our partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center are targeting pirate Web sites run by people who have no respect for creativity and innovation,” said ICE Assistant Secretary Morton, who was in Southern California to meet with the leaders of the movie industry. “We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when organized criminals traffic in stolen movies for their own profit.”

The article elaborates on the first action taken by the new agency:

In the first action carried out as part of the initiative, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of Web sites that were offering first-run movies, often within hours of their theatrical release. Seven of those sites were targeted for seizure by the SDNY.

In late December, the Copyhype publication that discusses matters related to intellectual property and copyright, shared an interesting discovery:

On December 9, the US filed a complaint for civil forfeiture in the Southern District of New York against the seven domain names seized this past summer as part of Operation in Our Sites. […] Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the US has also posted notice of the forfeiture action [link to forfeiture]

It’s perhaps the first time that domain names are recognized as property at federal level, that can be both seized *and* forfeited.

Whether this is good news or bad news, we’d have to see how this sets the precedent with future lawsuits involving domain names.

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4 Responses to “Federal Government: domains are property”
  1. Em says:

    Essentially good news. A full recognition is about due. How music melodies have been considered intellectual property for a very long time ( especially as collateral) and how domains have been considered to sit just in a gray area (up until now), I will never know.

  2. David L.G says:

    Internet may look like virtual but it’s a real part of the economy. It makes sense that governments protect it. If theses actions are only focused on illegal business, it will help to clean the reputation of the domainers. Domainers are not criminals. At worse they can have some trademark conflicts. Laws exist for that. They are defensive; they defend equally the rights of all.
    I think there will more international cooperation in the future, it maybe not an Internet governance which is coming but something closed.

  3. Ray says:

    The thing is, the contents were all uploaded by other parties that are not being pursued. Most of the uploads are still on the fileshare / streaming websites at this day, only a few of the websites that ONLY LINKED to it are gone. I find it a little too drastic – and worrysome – that they block pages that only link to what is available publicly, rather than going after the uploaders themselves or issue copyright complaints on the Hosters themselves so that they remove it. They shouldn’t strike down on people like this without a warning for just linking somewhere. It’s like I link somewhere with my blog and made a typo, the website turns out is a illegal one, and suddenly US decides to remove my domain alltogether instead of warning me first. They made more closings like this around the end of 2010 too and there was another issue there where they managed to control non .com domains, that are outside US jurisdiction. If anything, those domains should be handled by their respective countries, not Homeland Security.

    I find it a troublesome development for globalization and internet freedom.

  4. I wish there is more security for domains so, bad guys can’t just get to them.
    Most of those that steal will sell them to some unsuspecting buyers.

    That is the major issue for domain owners.

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