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November 29, 2010

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton have announced operation "In Our Sites v. 2.0," a sweeping intellectual property enforcement initiative targeting "online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software."

The Department Of Justice announced this morning that "Seizure orders have been executed against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0."

PLEASE UNDERSTAND WHAT IS AT ISSUE HERE. IT IS NOT ABOUT COUNTERFEIT GOODS. IT'S ABOUT THE METHOD THAT IS BEING USED. THE U.S. DOES NOT HAVE THE JURISDICTION TO SEIZE DOMAINS, NO NATION DOES. EVEN CHINA ONLY BLOCKS DOMAINS. THIS IS AN UNPRECEDENTED ABUSE OF INTERNATIONAL TRUST! if they can do it, which I doubt. :-)

This is exactly the type of control that they have been seeking with the COICA, and which I have been blogging against with my diary at DKos and which so far they have been unable to get out of the Senate. No matter, they just up and did it by Executive Order.

As if the WikiLeaks Cablegate hasn't done enough to damage our trust and creditability around the world, now the Obama Administration has just announced that it will misuse America's position as the neutral steward of the Internet Infrastructure to "seize domains" (not just block domains) something no country has attempted before. Just how they intend to 'seize domains' remains to be seen but we are very likely witnessing the end of the Internet as we have know it..  

Stay tuned. More to follow...

The danger to the Internet is precisely the same as outlined by 87 of the key Internet creators who are "just a little proud of the social and economic benefits that our project, the Internet, has brought with it." warned about in  their letter to the Judiciary Committee opposing the "Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (COICA). before the mid terms.

from by diary: Internet Engineers tell the Senate to Back Off!

These Internet Engineers foretell the Balkanization of the Internet that I have been warning about in my earlier diaries:

These problems will be enough to ensure that alternative name-lookup infrastructures will come into widespread use, outside the control of US service providers but easily used by American citizens. Errors and divergences will appear between these new services and the current global DNS, and contradictory addresses will confuse browsers and frustrate the people using them. These problems will be widespread and will affect sites other than those blacklisted by the American government.

   
Then they go on to warn of the consequents of what really amounts to a U.S. gov't Internet Coup d'état:

The US government has regularly claimed that it supports a free and open Internet, both domestically and abroad. We can't have a free and open Internet without a global domain name system that sits above the political concerns and objectives of any one government or industry. To date, the leading role the US has played in this infrastructure has been fairly uncontroversial because America is seen as a trustworthy arbiter and a neutral bastion of free expression. If the US suddenly begins to use its central position in the DNS for censorship that advances its political and economic agenda, the consequences will be far-reaching and destructive.

Scientific American has a very good article, very good at explaining the basics in laymen's language. Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality In it Tim Berners-Lee [Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Today he is director of the international World Wide Web Consortium] write "The world wide web went live, on my physical desktop in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 1990. It consisted of one Web site and one browser, which happened to be on the same computer. The simple setup demonstrated a profound concept: that any person could share information with anyone else, anywhere."

Here are some excerpts:

The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.

The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways...Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.

If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.

Totalitarian governments aren’t the only ones violating the network rights of their citizens. In France a law created in 2009, named Hadopi, allowed a new agency by the same name to disconnect a household from the Internet for a year if someone in the household was alleged by a media company to have ripped off music or video. After much opposition, in October the Constitutional Council of France required a judge to review a case before access was revoked, but if approved, the household could be disconnected without due process. In the U.K., the Digital Economy Act, hastily passed in April, allows the government to order an ISP to terminate the Internet connection of anyone who appears on a list of individuals suspected of copyright infringement. In September the U.S. Senate introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which would allow the government to create a blacklist of Web sites—hosted on or off U.S. soil—that are accused of infringement and to pressure or require all ISPs to block access to those sites.

In these cases, no due process of law protects people before they are disconnected or their sites are blocked. Given the many ways the Web is crucial to our lives and our work, disconnection is a form of deprivation of liberty. Looking back to the Magna Carta, we should perhaps now affirm: "No person or organization shall be deprived of the ability to connect to others without due process of law and the presumption of innocence."

UPDATE:

From TorrentFreak

"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.

Aside from the fact that domains are being seized seemingly at will, there is a very serious problem with the action against Torrent-Finder. Not only does the site not host or even link to any torrents whatsoever, it actually only returns searches through embedded iframes which display other sites that are not under the control of the Torrent-Finder owner.

Torrent-Finder remains operational through another URL, Torrent-Finder.info, so feel free to check it out for yourself. The layouts of the sites it searches are clearly visible in the results shown.

Yesterday we reported that the domain of hiphop site RapGodFathers had been seized and today we can reveal that they are not on their own. Two other music sites in the same field – OnSmash.com and DaJaz1.com – have fallen to the same fate. But ICE activities don’t end there.

Several other domains also appear to have been seized including 2009jerseys.com, nfljerseysupply.com, throwbackguy.com, cartoon77.com, lifetimereplicas.com, handbag9.com, handbagcom.com and dvdprostore.com.

Once again, keep your eye on the ball. The key issue here is Internet control and censorship not stopping counterfeit goods. Most censorship schemes start with pornography as the excuse but once the mechanism is in place it quickly becomes political. In this case stopping counterfeit goods is the give excuse but the method appears to be one of taking advantage of the physical location of ICANN, an international Internet body, in the U.S. to stage a coupe d'etat 'seizing domains'.

UPDATE: Electronic Frontier Foundation has just put a very good piece up on their website
U.S. Government Seizes 82 Websites: A Glimpse at the Draconian Future of Copyright Enforcement?
They echo the same concerns I have outlined above:

it appears that the "raid" has swept up several sites that are hardly in the business of willful copyright infringement.

these seizures may be just a short preview of the kind of overreaching enforcement we’ll see if the Congress passes the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).

If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems — including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA. Presumably the DOJ and the DHS should be committed to improving network security — not undermining it.

Here is a recap of my other DKos dairies on this subject:
Sweet Victory on Internet Censorship: Senate Backs Off!
Internet Engineers tell the Senate to Back Off!
Why is Net Neutrality advocate Free Press MIA?
Obama's Internet Coup d'état
Julian Assange on Threat to Internet Freedom
FCC Net Neutrality's Trojan Horse
Free Press: Country Codes for the Internet?
The Mountain comes to Mohammad
Keith Olbermann's Deception
Court rules -> Google Must Be Evil & Maximize Profits
EFF on the Google\Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal
Google-Verizon: What is the Free Press Agenda?
End of the Internet As We Know It!
Free Press would make this Illegal!
Google Verizon Announce Terms of Deal

Originally posted to Linux Beach on Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 12:58 PM PST.

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