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Archive for the ‘Domain Seizure’ Category

Domain Seizures Do Not Violate Free Speech, U.S. Court Rules

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Domain Seizures Do Not Violate Free Speech, U.S. Court Rules: “

A U.S. federal court has ruled that the domain seizure of sports streaming site Rojadirecta does not violate the First Amendment, and has refused to hand the domain back to its Spanish owner. The order stands in conflict with previous Supreme Court rulings and doesn’t deliver much hope to other website owners who operate under U.S. controlled domain names.

rojaAt the end of January 2011 the U.S. authorities began yet another round of domain seizures, this time against sites connected with sports streaming. This third round of action in ‘Operation in Our Sites’ took control of domains owned by sports streaming site Rojadirecta.

While most owners of affected domains have decided not to appeal the seizures, the Spanish owner of the Rojadirecta, one of Spain’s most popular sites, did.

Two months ago the company behind the site, Puerto 80, filed a petition in the Southern District of New York for the return of its domains. This call was later supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who together with Center for Democracy and Technology and Public Knowledge submitted an amicus brief in support of the Spanish company.

Yesterday, United States District Court Judge Paul Crotty decided to deny Puerto 80′s request, which means the domain will remain in the hands of the U.S. Government. The Judge argues that seizing Rojadirecta’s .com and .org domains does not violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.

‘Puerto 80’s First Amendment argument fails,’ the Judge writes.

‘Puerto 80 alleges that, in seizing the domain names, the Government has suppressed the content in the ‘forums’ on its websites, which may be accessed by clicking a link in the upper left of the home page. The main purpose of the Rojadirecta websites, however, is to catalog links to the copyrighted athletic events — any argument to the contrary is clearly disingenuous.’

The Judge further ruled that the claimed 32% decline in traffic and the subsequent harm to Puerto 80′s business is not an issue as visitors can still access the site through foreign domains. Puerto 80′s argument, that users may not be aware of these alternatives, was simply waived.

‘Rojadirecta argues that, because ‘there is no way to communicate the availability of these alternative sites on the .org or .com domains . . . the vast majority of users will simply stop visiting the sites altogether.’ This argument is unfounded — Rojadirecta has a large internet presence and can simply distribute information about the seizure and its new domain names to its customers,’ the Judge writes.

‘In addition, Puerto 80 does not explain how it generates profit or argue that it is losing a significant amount of revenue as a result of the seizure. Specifically, Puerto 80 states that it does not generate revenue from the content to which it links, and it does not claim to generate revenue from advertising displayed while such content is playing,’ Judge Crotty adds.

From the above the Judge concludes that the drop in visitor traffic due to their seizure does not establish a substantial hardship, and therefore no reason exists to return the domain.

This line of reasoning goes directly against previous rulings in First Amendment cases. As the EFF points out, in two earlier Supreme Court decisions it was concluded that having alternatives available does not mean that freedom of speech isn’t violated.

According to the EFF, the peculiarities of the ruling don’t end there.

‘As if misapplying the relevant substantive First Amendment analysis wasn’t bad enough, the court failed to even address the fatal procedural First Amendment flaws inherent in the seizure process: namely, that a mere finding of ‘probable cause’ does not and cannot justify a prior restraint. How the court believes that the seizure satisfies the First Amendment in this regard is a mystery,’ they write.

The decision of District Court Judge Paul Crotty to stand firmly behind the Government is worrying for all other websites who operate under U.S. controlled domains. It’s yet another step in granting the Government and copyright holders more control over the Internet, at the expense of smaller businesses and the rights of citizens.

The Order

Source: Domain Seizures Do Not Violate Free Speech, U.S. Court Rules

(Via TorrentFreak.)

Turkey: Are Ankara Web Regulators Running Amok? | EurasiaNet.org

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Turkey: Are Ankara Web Regulators Running Amok? | EurasiaNet.org

May 3, 2011 – 1:03pm, by Dorian Jones

When Apple’s iPad went on sale recently in Turkey it sold out in less than an hour. The voracious appetite of Turks for web gadgetry seems matched only by the Turkish government’s desire to control access to the Internet.

Turkey already has the unenviable record of banning more sites than any other European country. The number is believed to be around 12,000, although official figures haven’t been released since 2009. Now the number seems set to skyrocket following the adoption of new regulations by the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, or TİB, which administers the internet. TIB has recently banned the use 138 words on Turkish domain sites.

For example, sanaldestekunitesi.com (virtualsupportunit.com) faces closure because it has one of the proscribed words, ‘anal,’ can be found in its domain name. The number ‘31’ too is banned, as it is slang in Turkish for male masturbation. Other banned words include English words ‘gay,’ ‘beat,’ ‘escort,’ ‘homemade,’ ‘hot,’ ‘nubile,’ ‘free’ and ‘teen.’

Turkey’s Internet advocates have strongly criticized the new measure, warning of chaos and substantial losses to net users, providers and customers. ‘I think the TİB personnel who worked on the issues related to banning access are not endowed with the necessary technical knowledge and skills’ said Devrim Demirel, founder and chief executive officer of BerilTech, Turkey’s leading domain name and business intelligence company.

The changes are ostensibly designed to protect children, TIB officials claim. Thousands of sites have already been individually banned by the courts for similar reasons. The country’s governing Justice and Development Party, (AKP) with its Islamist roots, has used the same reasoning to introduce tough controls on the public consumption of alcohol.

Experts say it is relatively easy for Internet users in Turkey currently to circumvent controls by re-registering abroad, as there are many ways of accessing blocked sites via proxies and by using open domain servers. Legions of web users are believed to routinely flout the government’s restrictions. Past scofflaws include none other than the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who once admitted to reporters that he accessed the YouTube video sharing site, which was banned at the time in Turkey. The ban was reportedly instituted because of a number of videos hosted on the site that denigrated the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.

Even more draconian measures are set to take hold this August. Under the banner of ‘Safe Use of the Internet,’ all Internet users will have to choose from one of four filter profiles provided by Internet Service Providers. ‘We are concerned that the government [will] enforce and develop a censorship infrastructure’ said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul and an expert on Internet-related legal issues.

‘Even the standard profile is a filter system, and the problem is, it is government mandated, government controlled,’ Akdeniz continued. ‘There are no other countries within the EU or Council of Europe that has a similar system.’

Civil society activists, meanwhile, are concerned by the way in which the new controls were adopted: officials resorted to governmental decree, shunning parliamentary debate and approval. It is a method of rule-making that AKP leaders of late have used with growing frequency. In 2010, for example, a government decree banned couples from going abroad for artificial insemination. The new Internet regulations were not widely known until they were publicized by a Turkey-based human rights website, Bianet.

The fear is that the new filters will be used to block not only pornographic sites, but also the political ones. ‘Depending on the government, depending on the ministers, one can be put on the blacklist’ said Bianet’s head Nadire Mater. ’This is not democracy. We’ve experienced this before, because police from time to time distributed these blacklists to Internet cafes or companies: we were getting complaints from the visitors. They were saying that we don’t have any access [to] Bianet.’

The new regulation will also open the door for unspecified sanctions against anyone who seeks to circumvent filters, or who seeks access to proscribed websites. Under the new filter system the government will have access to individual web-user data.

Sites that are banned, as well as the criteria used for banning them, remain secret. ‘Already under existing controls, along with pornographic sites, hundreds of political sites are banned’ said Akdeniz, the law professor. ’And although the government claims that they predominantly block access to pornographic websites, several hundred alternative-media websites, especially websites dealing with the Kurdish debate, are blocked for political reasons.’

The new controls are now being challenged in the Danistay – Turkey’s highest administrative court. A number of cases are also pending at the European Court of Human Rights, including a case over the banning of the YouTube.

Editor’s note:
Dorian Jones is a freelance journalist living in Turkey. “

(Via .)

TİB’s ‘forbidden words list’ inconsistent with law, say Turkish web providers

Friday, April 29th, 2011

TİB’s ‘forbidden words list’ inconsistent with law, say Turkish web providers – Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review

Friday, April 29, 2011
ERISA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

The TİB sent a list of 138 words Thursday to Turkish web-hosting firms, urging them to ban Internet domains that include such words.

The TİB sent a list of 138 words Thursday to Turkish web-hosting firms, urging them to ban Internet domains that include such words.

A request made Thursday by the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate, or TİB, to ban a total of 138 words from Turkish Internet domain names has no legal basis and has left companies unsure of what action to take, according to experts.

‘Providing a list and urging companies to take action to ban sites that contain the words and threatening to punish them if they don’t has no legal grounds,’ Yaman Akdeniz, a cyber-rights activist and a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a phone interview Friday. Akdeniz said no authority could decide that an action was illegal just by association.

The TİB sent a list of 138 words Thursday to Turkish web-hosting firms, urging them to ban Internet domains that include such words. The directive leaves tens of thousands of Turkish websites facing the risk of closure.

‘Hosting companies are not responsible for monitoring for illegal activities; their liability arises only if they take no action after being notified by the TİB – or any other party – and are asked to remove certain illegal content,’ Akdeniz said.

The TİB cited the Internet ban law number 5651 and related legislation as the legal ground for its request. The law, however, does not authorize firms to take action related to banning websites.

‘The hosting company is not responsible for controlling the content of the websites it provides domains to or researching/exploring on whether there is any illegal activity or not. They are responsible for removing illegal content when they are informed and there is the technical possibility of doing so,’ according to Article 5 of the law.

On Thursday, following the heated debate surround the ‘forbidden’ list, the TİB said the list was sent to hosting firms for informatory purposes. But the statement further confused the situation, as the body threatened companies with punishment if they did not obey its directions regarding the list in the first letter sent to service providers.

‘The TİB’s press statement is not clear, nor is it satisfactory,’ Akdeniz said, adding that it was a pity the directorate was still standing behind the list.

The TİB’s action is inconsistent with the related law and bylaw, and its subsequent statement contradicted both the request and the legislation,’ Devrim Demirel, founder and chief executive officer of BerilTech, Turkey’s leading domain name and business intelligence company, told the Daily News on Friday. He added they were still confused and did not know what their next move would be.

Demirel said they had no answers to the questions from hundreds of his company’s customers from Turkey and abroad, including Google’s com.tr and Yahoo’s com.tr services.

The TİB’s letter said the body would punish companies for not taking action to ban domains containing ‘forbidden words,’ but it did not specify what kind of punishment it implied, according to Demirel. ‘It is still not clear whether there will be administrative or other sanctions.’

Noting that the implementation of the TİB’s request on the forbidden names list could have many negative technical implications, Demirel said, ‘I think the TİB personnel who worked on the issues related to banning access are not endowed with the necessary technical knowledge and skills.’

He said customers had not taken any illegal action, but domains that include the words TİB wants to filter and then ban could incur losses.

‘There is no guarantee in the existing related legislation that I will not be asked to compensate the company in such a case,’ Demirel said, adding that there were many other complex technicalities like this one that could emerge should the TİB’s request be implemented.

Demirel said he received TİB’s letter via an email, which he said was neither ethical nor secure.

‘Do we have to make a technical check of the sender’s identity each time the TİB sends us an email? Requests with such important implications should be sent officially to each company’s office address, with the respective seal and signatures,’ he said.

Despite the problems, Demirel said banning websites in itself was the wrong approach. ‘Banning access to websites is in itself a censuring service.’

The TİB’s latest request also implied censure, he said.

Banned words have many scratching heads

The effect of the TİB’s request could see the closure of many websites that include a number of words. For example, the website ‘donanimalemi.com’ (hardwareworld.com) could be banned because the domain name has the word ‘animal’ in it; likewise, ‘sanaldestekunitesi.com,’ (virtualsupportunit.com) could be closed down because of the word ‘anal.’ Websites will also be forbidden from using the number 31 in their domain names because it is slang for male masturbation.

Some banned English words include ‘beat,’ ‘escort,’ ‘homemade,’ ‘hot,’ ‘nubile,’ ‘free’ and ‘teen.’ Some other English words would also be banned because of their meanings in Turkish: ‘pic,’ short for picture, is banned because it means ‘bastard’ in Turkish. The past tense of the verb ‘get’ is also banned because ‘got’ means ‘butt’ in Turkish. Haydar, a very common Alevi name for men, is also banned because it means penis in slang.

‘Gay’ and its Turkish pronunciation, ‘gey;’ ‘çıplak’ (naked); ‘itiraf’ (confession); ‘liseli’ (high school student); ‘nefes’ (breath) and ‘yasak’ (forbidden) are some of the other banned words.

138 Words Banned from the Turkish Internet

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Bianet: 138 Words Banned from the Internet

The Telecommunication Communication Presidency banned 138 words and terms from the internet. The list also includes words used in everyday life. The number of access bans is expected to increase; also food home delivery sites or football supporters’ clubs will be affected.

Ekin KARACA, ekin@bianet.org
Istanbul – BİA News Center
29 April 2011, Friday

The list of ‘banned words’ is the latest outcome of a series of oppressive applications that day by day restrict internet freedom in Turkey more and more.

In a notification sent to all service providers and hosting companies in Turkey on Thursday (28 April), the Telecommunication Communication Presidency (TİB) forwarded a list of banned words and terms. Yet, this list also includes a number of ‘ordinary’ words that can be deemed indispensible in usual everyday life.

According to the list, names like ‘Adrianne’, ‘Haydar’ or words like ‘Hikaye’ (‘Story’) fall under the ban. Assoc. Prof. Yaman Akdeniz, lecturer at the Bilgi University School of Law, applied for the right to information to the Internet Department of the Telecommunication Communication Presidency as part of the Information Technology and Communication Council.
Internet expert Akdeniz requires information on controversial list

Akdeniz required information from TİB on several issues. The list comprises a total of 138 ‘forbidden words’ and is classified in three different groups. Akdeniz inquired why the first names ‘Adrianne’ and ‘Haydar’ from group II on the list were added in particular.

In the scope of Law No. 4982 on the Right to Information, internet expert Akdeniz also questioned who the names ‘Adrianne’ and ‘Haydar’ actually belong to.

Again in accordance with Law No. 4982, Akdeniz demanded to obtain the entire range of information and documents related to the preparation of the list.

In the same context, the internet expert requested information and documents regarding the execution of the new application.

Akdeniz put forward that the above mentioned information and documents were of immediate public interest and available at the Telecommunication Communication Presidency as part of the Information Technology and Communication Council. ‘The explanation of these documents is of public interest’, he stated and referred to Article 1 of Law No. 4982 that enshrines ‘the right to information according to the principles of equality, impartiality and openness that are the necessities of a democratic and transparent government’.
State forbids the word ‘forbidden’…

Several words on the list of ‘banned words’ are part of everyday life, e.g. the words Adrianne, Animal, Hayvan (‘Animal’), Baldiz (sister-in-law’), Beat, Buyutucu (‘enlarger’), Ciplak (‘nude’), Citir (‘crispy’), Escort, Etek (’skirt’), Fire, Girl, Ateşli (‘passionate’), Frikik (‘freekick’), Free, Gey (‘gay’), Gay, Gizli (‘confidential’), Haydar, Hikaye, Homemade, Hot, İtiraf (‘confession’), Liseli (‘high school student’), Nefes (‘breath’), Nubile, Partner, Pic, Sarisin (‘blond’), Sicak (‘hot’), Sisman (‘overweight’), Teen, Yasak (‘forbidden’), Yerli (‘local’), Yetiskin (‘adult’) etc.

According to the notification of TİB, domain names containing the words on the list will neither be assigned nor used and access to the existing ones will be suspended.
Sites of supermarkets or football supporters’ clubs affected as well

Considering certain supposedly ‘obscene’ words, the list is expected to cause a significant increase of censored internet sites.

Accordingly, words that overlap with two or three-word terms that are considered ‘obscene’ will be affected by the ban, too.

As reported by tknlg.com, also websites related to food home deliveries, online grocery shopping, IT, football supporters’ clubs or sites of advertising companies will be affected by the list of banned words. (EKN/BB/VK)

US Government Responds To Domain Seizures, Ignores The Big Question

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

US Government Responds To Domain Seizures, Ignores The Big Question: “The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have just confirmed the seizure of 82 domains as part of Operation in Our Sites 2. The authorities claim the actions were targeted at websites that were involved in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit and copyrighted goods, but fail to explain why a BitTorrent meta-search engine was included.

Last Thursday we reported on the seizure of the music linking site RapGodFathers. As it turned out this was the first target in a growing list of domains that were seized in the days that followed, including the BitTorrent meta-search engine Torrent-Finder.

All this time the authorities remained silent on the purpose and scope of the actions, until today. Apparently the DOJ and ICE had picked the label ‘Cyber Monday Crackdown’ for their actions, and this meant that they couldn’t release their statement earlier.

However, today a press release was finally issued, detailing which sites were targeted and why.

‘As of today – what is known as ‘Cyber Monday’ and billed as the busiest online shopping day of the year – anyone attempting to access one of these websites using its domain name will no longer be able to make a purchase. Instead, these online shoppers will find a banner notifying them that the website’s domain name has been seized by federal authorities,’ it was announced.

‘The coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.’

The message below is posted on the seized sites

Seized Servers

‘By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain,’ said Attorney General Holder in a subsequent press release.

Since 95% of the domains were related to counterfeit goods, this explanation was kind of expected, but one question remains unanswered. In fact, this is the question that prompted so many news outlets to pick up the story over the last few days.

Those who took a careful look at the list of seized domains will have noticed that there are some odd entries. Among the replica watches and fake sport shirts are three sites that were directly or indirectly linking to music. That’s not counterfeiting, although releasing music before it hits the stores is a criminal act so these targets can be explained.

But there’s an even stranger entry, and that is Torrent-Finder.

Torrent-Finder is not a typical torrent site where one can download torrent files. It’s merely a meta-search engine that redirects users to other sites. The site simply displays a search box and has no browsable archive. The site is not encouraging or even facilitating copyright infringement any more than other search engines such as Google.

So the question that we’d like to see answered is what the grounds were to seize Torrent-Finder? Could it have been a mistake? Or perhaps a test?

If the US authorities were to target BitTorrent sites then Torrent-Finder is arguably the least likely target. Still, the owner lost its domain without even receiving a notice. That doesn’t seen right somehow.

If it’s so easy for the US Government to obtain a seizure order for a website that is simply a meta-search engine, and not by any means involved in linking to or hosting copyrighted material, then where does it stop?

Meanwhile, TorrentFreak has been made aware of (many) additional domains that are on a Government seizure list. More info on this is expected to trickle in later in the week and might reveal more about the future direction of Operation In Our Sites 2 after ‘Cyber Monday Crackdown.’

Full list of 82 seized domains

Article from: TorrentFreak.

(Via TorrentFreak.)

U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown: “The Web addresses of several sites that posted unauthorized copies or aided in searches for downloadable films and music were seized by an arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

(Via NYT > Technology.)

U.S. Government Seizes BitTorrent Search Engine Domain and More

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

U.S. Government Seizes BitTorrent Search Engine Domain and More: “Following on the heels of this week’s domain seizure of a large hiphop file-sharing links forum, it’s clear today that the U.S. Government has been very busy. Without any need for COICA, ICE has just seized the domain of a BitTorrent meta-search engine along with those belonging to other music linking sites and several others which appear to be connected to physical counterfeit goods.

While complex, it’s still possible for U.S. authorities and copyright groups to point at a fully-fledged BitTorrent site with a tracker and say ‘that’s an infringing site.’ When one looks at a site which hosts torrents but operates no tracker, the finger pointing becomes quite a bit more difficult.

When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield – unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is.

This morning, visitors to the Torrent-Finder.com site are greeted with an ominous graphic which indicates that ICE have seized the site’s domain.

The message below is posted on the seized sites

Seized Servers

‘My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!’ the exasperated owner of Torrent-Finder told TorrentFreak this morning.

‘I firstly had DNS downtime. While I was contacting GoDaddy I noticed the DNS had changed. Godaddy had no idea what was going on and until now they do not understand the situation and they say it was totally from ICANN,’ he explained.

Aside from the fact that domains are being seized seemingly at will, there is a very serious problem with the action against Torrent-Finder. Not only does the site not host or even link to any torrents whatsoever, it actually only returns searches through embedded iframes which display other sites that are not under the control of the Torrent-Finder owner.

Torrent-Finder remains operational through another URL, Torrent-Finder.info, so feel free to check it out for yourself. The layouts of the sites it searches are clearly visible in the results shown.

Yesterday we reported that the domain of hiphop site RapGodFathers had been seized and today we can reveal that they are not on their own. Two other music sites in the same field – OnSmash.com and DaJaz1.com – have fallen to the same fate. But ICE activities don’t end there.

Several other domains also appear to have been seized including 2009jerseys.com, nfljerseysupply.com, throwbackguy.com, cartoon77.com, lifetimereplicas.com, handbag9.com, handbagcom.com and dvdprostore.com.

All seized sites point to the same message.

Domain seizures coming under the much debated ‘censorship bill’ COICA? Who needs it?

Update: Below is an longer list of domains that were apparently seized. Most of the sites relate to counterfeit goods. We assume that the authorities had a proper warrant for these sites (as they had for RapGodFathers yesterday), but were unable to confirm this.

Update: A spokeswoman for ICE confirmed the seizures in the following statement. ‘ICE office of Homeland Security Investigations executed court-ordered seizure warrants against a number of domain names. As this is an ongoing investigation, there are no additional details available at this time.’

Update: The authorities have revealed further details on ‘Cyber Monday Crackdown.’

Full list of 82 seized domains

Article from: TorrentFreak.

(Via TorrentFreak.)