The Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) currently being debated, has been the subject of a lot of contention because of the power it vests in the US Government to seize domain names situated anywhere in the world which are “dedicated to infringing activities”.
However prior to the enactment of the COICA Act, more than eighty websites have been seized pursuant to current legislation, which are believed to be enabling the ‘commission or facilitation‘ of copyright ‘and trademark infringement. The websites were seized by the Immigration and Customs (ICE) Division of US Homeland Security. The domain names are all allegedly associated with the sale of counterfeit items from DVDs and CDs to designer items.
In order to seize the domain names, a Federal Prosecutor is required to persuade a Federal Magistrate there is probable cause to believe that the law has been violated prior to the Judge ordering the seizure. No notice of the seizure is given to the website owner.
The investigation leading to the seizure commenced by Immigration and Customs Division requesting the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and other trade groups to supply them with websites which the associations believed required further investigation.
The Court orders were served on VeriSign, the Virginia-based domain-name registry for all .com and .net domains. Under the proposed COICA Act the website owner who has registered the site would be notified in advance prior to the seizure.
Under the present law, also authored by Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, the website owner is not given prior notice and can only try to recover their domain name through an administrative hearing.
The COICA Act is narrower in it’s operation insofar as it is only able to be used against sites “dedicated to infringing activity” as opposed to those that are used to facilitate piracy, a lesser standard.
It is of concern that entire domains have been taken down irrespective of whether or not the entire domain is involved or aware of alleged infringing activity occurring on their site. It isn’t known what information is being put before the Magistrate to determine and verify that the domains seized are actually involved in infringing activity. Websites involve in legitimate activity may have been taken down in this investigation.
The Torrentfinder.com website neither hosts or links to any torrents. It merely returns searches through embedded iframes displaying other websites which aren’t under it’s control.The site may link torrents which may be used as a means of sharing copyrighted material, there are also legitimate persons who use the technologies in order to legitimately distribute their work.
The Torrent site has no tracker, and lists no copyright works unless someone specifically searches for them just as they would were they using a search engine such as Google. Users can inspect the site which is functioning through Torrent-Finder.info to scrutinise it for themselves.
Some of the sites which have been taken down have been re-instated outside the US jurisdiction where they are not able to be taken offline.
A full list of domain names seized can be found here.
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