Monday, February 7, 2011

Homeland Security Tries And Fails To Explain Why Seized Domains Are Different From Google

The Marketplace radio show from American Public Media spoke to Special Agent James Hayes from Homeland Security, who was apparently in charge of the "raids" (if you can call them that) that involved the seizing of domain names under the legally questionable theory that linking to infringing material is, by itself, criminal copyright infringement. I've yet to find any legal expert who seems to believe that the law actually says this anywhere.

In the interview, John Moe asked Agent Hayes a very simple question: given that these domains were all seized based solely on the fact that they link to infringing content hosted elsewhere, and all of the same content is also linked from Google, will the Feds seize Google's domain name? Well, more specifically, Moe asks if ICE could seize Google's domain name. Amusingly, right after being asked, Hayes conveniently gets cut off, but he does call back and the question is asked again. You can hear the whole thing here:

Click for audio

However, once he gets back, he tries to tap dance around this issue. Hayes says "no" that ICE will not seize Google's domain name and that's because it's only targeting sites that "don't do due diligence" to make sure that the content they're linking to isn't infringing. There's a pretty serious problem with this claim in that it's wrong on both sides of the equation. First off, Google, as a search engine, does no due diligence to check that links only go to non-infringing content. Second, in at least some of the cases (specifically in the case of dajaz1), we know that it was actually Homeland Security and folks like Special Agent Hayes who "failed to do their due diligence," so the songs named in the ICE affidavit were, in fact, provided by the labels or representatives of the musicians. In other words, according to Special Agent Hayes' own criteria, Google is more of a criminal operation that Dajaz1.


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