U.S. officials in recent months have seized many file-sharing domain names in an attempt to fight against piracy. In particular, a series of seizures by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has “made headlines across the Internet,” bloggers say. But these federal actions also have resulted in heavy critique from journalists, legal experts, senators and most prominently, the public.
Among the many arguments, legal experts developed five arguments why these actions are unconstitutional:
1. They violate the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment because the government seizes the domains without prior notice and hearing.
2. The seizures of protected speech without a hearing violates the First Amendment.
3. There is no concern that the accused will flee with their domains.
4. There is an unacceptable risk of wrongful seizure.
5. The targeted sites are not given an immediate opportunity to reclaim their domain.
On the other hand, the government says this is an effective tactic to combat Internet piracy. Authorities note that they have not shut down only file-sharing and streaming sites but also sites that sell counterfeit goods. After staying silent about the U.S. actions for two months, the Motion Picture Association of America has applauded authorities for their success in raising public awareness about piracy and in stopping sites from engaging in illegal activity.
But the TorrentFreak site argues that results show the government strategy as a failure. First, the public awareness that the movie industry lauds “mostly concerned the realization that the [government] was willing to sacrifice a lot, including First Amendment rights, to protect the interests of the entertainment industries.” Second, the seizures really haven’t deterred pirates from their crimes because they simply leap to new domains when officials close one of theirs and “a domain seizure is not the ultimate anti-piracy tool the authorities and the MPAA claim it is.”