UK Police Accuse Domain Name Registrar of Facilitating Criminal Activity

City of London Police have increased the pressure on domain name registrars who do business with file-sharing sites. With a "notice of criminality" the police hopes to pressure the companies into taking action, or else.

easydnsOver the past year City of London Police have been working together with the music and movie industries to tackle sites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.

“Operation Creative” began with the sending of warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites.

Most registrars ignored these letters and only five out of the 75 requests were granted. The police aren’t giving up on their efforts though, as they have now contacted the registrars again, this time with a warning.

EasyDNS was one of the companies who refused to suspend domains without a court order. This week CEO Mark Jeftovic informed TorrentFreak that his company received a new letter from City of London PIPCU titled “notice of criminality.”

Unlike the previous one, the latest letter doesn’t have any concrete demands, but simply puts the registrars on notice.

Receipt of this email serves as notice that the aforementioned domain, managed by EASYDNS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. 28/03/2014 is being used to facilitate criminal activity, including offences under:

Fraud Act 2006
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Serious Crime Act 2007

We respectfully request that EASYDNS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. give consideration to your ongoing business relationship with the owners/purchasers of the domain to avoid any future accusations of knowingly facilitating the movement of criminal funds.

According to easyDNS the warning appears to suggest that registrars themselves could face legal trouble if they fail to take action. A rather worrying development considering that no court has deemed the sites to be violating local law.

“We think this time the intent is not to actually get the domain name taken down, but rather to build some sort of ‘case’ that we, easyDNS, by mere ‘Receipt of this email’ are now knowingly allowing domains under management to be ‘used to facilitate criminal activity’,” Jeftovic notes.

“Thus, if we don’t takedown the domains PIPCU want us to, when they want us to, then we may face accusations in the future (in their own words) ‘of knowingly facilitating the movement of criminal funds’,” he adds.

Despite the repeated threats, easyDNS doesn’t plan to take any action without a proper court order. In a blog post Jeftovic explains this stance, noting that his company will fiercely defend due process.

The file-sharing domains PIPCU wants to take offline are guilty until proven innocent and there is no basis to act without a court order, he believes. Instead, he characterizes the warning letter as potentially libelous and a abuse of power.

“Hinting that failure to cooperate could result in adverse consequences such as being stripped of one’s trade accreditation or possibly being accused of a crime in the future, strikes me as coercive or an abuse of position on the part of PIPCU,” Jeftovic concludes.

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