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Government Domain Name Seizures Violate First Amendment

June 21, 2011

Government Domain Name Seizures Violate First Amendment

EFF Challenges Flawed Anti-Infringement Campaign in Amicus Brief

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court to return two domain names seized in the U.S. government's fundamentally flawed anti-infringement campaign in an amicus brief filed Monday.

"This misguided intellectual property enforcement effort is causing serious collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "These domain seizures should cease unless and until the government can fix the First Amendment flaws inherent in the program."

EFF's brief was filed in support of a petition from Puerto 80, the Spanish company behind popular sports streaming sites Rojadirecta.com and Rojadirecta.org, which were both seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year, even though a Spanish court found they did not violate copyright law. Puerto 80 tried to work with ICE and other U.S. government authorities to resolve the matter without court involvement, but its efforts were unsuccessful.

ICE began seizing domain names last year as part of "Operation in Our Sites," a government initiative to crack down on Internet piracy. ICE has seized 125 domains and redirects visitors of those sites to a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

"Neither the government nor rightsholders should fear a copyright enforcement process that complies with the rule of law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Valid claims of copyright infringement can be pursued in a manner that allows the accused parties to defend themselves. The unilateral seizure of domain names without a court ruling -- which obstructs access to all of a website's content -- is improper and should be strongly opposed by free speech advocates everywhere."

The Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge joined EFF's amicus brief. Jeffrey Neu and Luc Ulmet of the law firm Kuzas Neu serve as local counsel.

For the full amicus brief: https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/puerto80_v_US/2011-06-20-rojadirecta.pdf

For more on this case: https://www.eff.org/cases/puerto-80-v-us

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

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