Feds Return Mistakenly Seized Domain After a Year of Smoke and Mirrors

Just over a year ago, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized dozens of domain names as part of Operation in Our Sites. The lawyer for one of them, music blog Dajaz1, has been furiously trying to find out about the site's case and now, after a year of smoke, mirrors and stonewalling, the Feds have done the previously unthinkable - they've given the domain back.

During November 2010, the U.S. Government seized a range of domain names said to be infringing on copyright. While few mourned the loss of 2009jerseys.com, nfljerseysupply.com, throwbackguy.com, cartoon77.com, lifetimereplicas.com and handbag9.com, others generated much more interest.

Among them was DaJaz1.com, a site from which Special Agent Andrew Reynolds said he’d downloaded pirated music. But there was a problem. Persistent reports suggested that the songs had been legally provided to the site by record labels for the specific purposes of distribution to fans, a point later raised by Senator Ron Wyden. One ‘leak’ even came from a boss at a major music label.

Now, more than a year later, the whole case has just come alive in the most dramatic way possible. Has DaJaz1 just been deemed a full-blown rogue site run by criminals, as the ICE notice displayed on the domain for a year suggested?

Hardly – the Feds have just given their domain back because there is no case to answer.

DaJaz

As can be seen here, DaJaz1 is back online and according to Techdirt it’s been an epic effort.

After initially ignoring requests from DaJaz1 lawyer Andrew P. Bridges to return the domain, the U.S. government indicated it would begin the necessary forfeiture procedure. Bridges said he would submit a forfeiture challenge, but the deadline for the government to file apparently came and went with no visible action.

Bridges was told that extensions to file for forfeiture had been granted to the government. However, the lawyer questioned how this had been possible without him being informed and given the chance to contest. He asked for copies of the documentation requesting the extension and the court’s documentation granting it, but on each count he was denied and told the papers were under seal.

Incredibly, he was then told that he wouldn’t be informed of future extensions nor given a chance to contest them either, which was problematic since extension after extension was apparently granted. However, nothing could be officially confirmed by Bridges since the official paperwork remained secret.

So here we are in December 2011 and surprisingly the government has just decided that it will need no more extensions, since it will not file a forfeiture complaint after all. The reason? Because there is no probable cause.

This means that following a request from Bridges, DaJaz1 now have their domain back. They are back in business and to kick off they are displaying an anti-censorship, anti-PROTECT IP, and anti-SOPA banner on their website.

If a poster boy was ever needed to show why these domain seizures without a fair process are just flat-out wrong, today SOPA opponents have one.

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