Our Response To Unsealed Court Documents In Dajaz1 Domain Seizure
The documents were finally unsealed in the seizure against this domain and they proved quite interesting. The good folks over at Wired, The EFF, and the California First Amendment Coalition were so kind as to go after the unsealing of the documents (Thanks Guys!) and did pretty great write up’s on them so be sure and check those out.
Over the weekend Ben Sisario from The New York Times, who has covered this story from the beginning, reached out letting us know that the RIAA had provided to him an additional statement saying “Rights holders and the R.I.A.A. were requested to assist law enforcement and made every attempt to do so in a complete and prompt manner” and asking for comment. So without further ado here is our full official response to these matters via our super awesome attorney Andrew P Bridges of Fenwick and West LLP:
The owner of Dajaz1.com appreciates the fact that the United States Government, on studying the matter further with all the information the RIAA could furnish, determined that there was in fact no probable cause to seek a forfeiture of the domain it had seized and held for a year.
That exoneration, however, did not remedy the harms caused by a full year of censorship and secret proceedings — a form of “digital Guantanamo” — that knocked out an important and popular blog devoted to hip hop music and has nearly killed it.
The original seizure was unjustified. The delay was unjustified. The secrecy in extensions of the forfeiture deadlines was unjustified.
Five details are notable here.
First, the seizure occurred pursuant to language the PRO-IP Act authorizing seizures of property used in connection with the making of, or trafficking in, “articles” in violation of copyright law. In that context, “articles” are physical items. The law does not authorize seizure of domains that link to other sites. So from the beginning this seizure was entirely legally unjustified, no matter what the allegations about infringement.
SEC. 2323. FORFEITURE, DESTRUCTION, AND RESTITUTION.
(a) CIVIL FORFEITURE.-
(1) PROPERTY SUBJECT TO FORFEITURE.-The following property is subject to forfeiture to the United States Government:
(A) Any article, the making or trafficking of which is, prohibited under section 506 of title 17, or section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of this title.
(B) Any property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part to commit or facilitate the commission of an offense referred to in subparagraph (A).
(C) Any property constituting or derived from any proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the commission of an offense referred to in subparagraph (A).
Second, seizing a blog for linking to four songs, even allegedly infringing ones, is equivalent to seizing the printing press of the New York Times because the newspaper, in its concert calendar, refers readers to four concerts where the promoters of those concerts have failed to pay ASCAP for the performance licenses.
Third, RIAA’s grand and sweeping attacks on dajaz1.com suggest that RIAA’s powers of demonization far exceed its ability to substantiate its malicious statements with specific and credible facts.
Fourth , when I explained that the blog publisher had received music from the industry itself, a government attorney replied that authorization was an “affirmative defense” that need not be taken into account by the government in carrying out the seizure. That was stunning.
Fifth, when discussing the secret extensions with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, I repeatedly asked the government attorney to inform the court that my client opposed any further extensions and asked for an opportunity to be heard. Not once did the government reveal those requests or positions to the court. The government should be embarrassed for keeping that information from the court.
This entire episode shows that neither the government nor the recording industry deserves any additional powers with new so-called “antipiracy” legislation, especially in the context where copyright law has been expanded and new anti-piracy remedies have been crafted ***16 times*** since 1982. This episode shows that the copyright establishment and the government are very much the “rogues” that deserve to be reined in.
One additional note to this whole thing – the assertion that filing extensions under seal was necessary as we might somehow find out about the criminal investigation is pretty ridiculous. Caption Obvious pointed that out in the scary banner that lived on this website for year. With wording like five and ten years in federal prison it wasn’t rocket science. Check the full court documents out below.