Saturday, February 19, 2011

Senator Ron Wyden questions ICE about domain seizures

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica reports that Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has noticed ICE's seizure of Internet domains over the last several months, and he is not amused. He has sent the head of ICE ten questions he wants answered regarding the handling of those seizures. It's not the first time Mr. Wyden has spoken out against the governments methods (or proposed methods) of combating copyright infringement. In a story on (about the domain seizures) it was also reported that he put the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Act on hold before the end of the last congressional session.

The senator noted that some of the sites taken down might not have done anything illegal. One,, is a Spanish site that has been declared legal multiple times by Spanish courts. Another,, hosted music that had been sent to him for promotional purposes by record executives. Senator Wyden wonders just what type of checking ICE did before taking these domain names. Did they engage in crimes, or did ICE play enforcer for the content providers who provided a list of offending domains? And how does a site that is putting up songs sent to it for that purpose by record executives? Why didn't the site owner provide proof that it had permission to put the songs up? Because it was never offered the chance. The domain was seized without ever notifying owner of that his site was being accused of illegal activity before the domain was seized.

Ron Wyden has questioned many of the governments efforts to extend it's power to invade citizens privacy. He's tackling problems like the police's ability to track you without a warrant using your cellphone and the true effect of ACTA on U.S law.

Ron Wyden is asking the right questions. What will happen if we tie our laws to the laws of other countries? Is it right to seize the property of others with only the claim of infringement by other parties? What is the real effect of file sharing? Should the police be able to track us without a warrant? All are questions that need careful consideration and thoughtful effort put into finding the answers. But until I heard about Ron Wyden it seemed that no one in Washington was asking them. Ron Wyden seems to remember who he was voted into office to represent.

If only there were more in Washington who did.