At the end of January 2011, the U.S. authorities kicked off yet another round of domain seizures, this time against site connected with sports streaming. This third round of action in ‘Operation in Our Sites’ took control of the domains of Rojadirecta, one of Spain’s most popular sites.
Yesterday the company behind the site, Puerto 80, filed a petition in the Southern District of New York for the return of its domains. As reported by TechDirt, the company has brought in legal heavyweights in the form of Ragesh Tangri and Mark Lemley from law firm Durie Tangri.
The federal court filing by site owner Puerto 80 states that Rojadirecta’s domains were used for sports-related discussions, conceding that “an index of links to streams of sporting events” were available but adding that the site committed no acts of copyright infringement.
“Contrary to the grounds on which the domain names were seized, the Rojadirecta site is not violating copyright law, let alone criminal copyright law,” the filing begins.
“Rojadirecta explained this to the government when, on February 3, 2011, it sent ICE and the Department of Justice a letter requesting immediate return of the subject domain names pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 983(f).”
Puerto 80 go on to bemoan the fact that they repeatedly tried to engage the U.S. authorities in discussion about the seizures and that the process to reclaim their domain names had dragged on, a delay which continues to damage their business. Several weeks ago it became clear that legal action would be necessary.
“On May 26, 2011, the government informed counsel for Puerto 80 that the only acceptable ‘compromise’ would entail Puerto 80 prohibiting its users from linking to any U.S. content anywhere on its sites. Because this ‘solution’ would prohibit Puerto 80 from engaging in lawful acts not prohibited by copyright law, Puerto 80 chose instead to challenge the seizure in court,” notes the filing.
Puerto 80 say that the activities of Rojadirecta do not constitute contributory infringement because the site is capable of substantial non-infringing uses. Furthermore, the company refutes claims of vicarious liability adding that the actions of Rojadirecta do not constitute direct copyright either. Puerto 80 note that the government has failed to show that Rojadirecta committed even a single criminal act.
The lawsuit adds that the domain seizure by ICE effectively shut down the entire Rojadirecta website thereby stifling all speech hosted on it “based on an assertion that there was probable cause to believe that some of the material linked to the website (though not found on the website itself) might be infringing.”
The Rojadirecta website is still available online using an alternative URL – rojadirecta.es – but Peurto 80 said that losing its original domains cost it 30% of its traffic.
“We’re very glad that Rojadirecta is fighting back so that this and other domain name seizures can receive more careful judicial consideration,” said the EFF in a comment. “We’ll be following the case closely and expect to weigh in as amicus as well.”