While US Attorney General Eric Holder was testifying before the House Of Representatives' Judiciary Committee regarding a sting operation to catch gun smugglers, Representative Zoe Lofgren took the opportunity to ask for details about the seizure of the Dajaz1.com domain name by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The domain name was seized a year ago by ICE (read the order below), who claimed operators of the popular blog were guilty of criminal copyright infringement. Despite the fact federal seizure laws require the government to either return property after 90 days or take forfeiture action, the domain name was returned a full year later with the agency admitting there was no justification for a criminal complaint.
According to a report from Techdirt, during that time the government repeatedly told lawyers representing the blog's administrator they had filed for extensions to the initial 90 day seizure period, but at no time was the accused given notice of the hearings, and in fact his lawyers weren't even allowed to see the extension orders the government claimed were issued.
Additionally, court documents show the initial seizure was based purely on a statement from a RIAA official, who simply informed an ICE investigator several songs linked to by the blog had not been released. There is no evidence ICE made any attempt to contact the actual copyright holders to determine whether the downloads were authorized or not.
In fact the site operator presented the New York Times with significant evidence they were provided by label and artist representatives. This was less than 30 days after the seizure. Additionally, the copyright to one of the recordings wasn't even owned by any RIAA member.
You can see Rep. Lofgren's exchange with the Attorney General, in which she alleges the seizures are unconstitutional, in this video:
This is not the first time Lofgren has protested ICE seizures. Last year she grilled a DHS offical about the lack of due process in the seizures. ICE is run by the Department Of Homeland Security. That official claimed due process was observed simply because a federal judge had rubber stamped (literally) the seizure order. Of course, that order was also approved without any adversarial process.
The seizure is also being publicly questioned by another long time critic of Operation In Our Sites, US Senator Ron Wyden. Last week a representative for Senator Wyden told Wired he plans to demand information on the entire chain of events by way of Freedom Of Information (FOIA) requests. In addition, he is trying to find out the details of any other secret copyright infringement investigations.
Written by: Rich Fiscus @ 12 Dec 2011 14:27