In the last few weeks of June, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement shutdown several Internet movie piracy websites, like ninjavideo, tvshack, and piratecity. Over the last couple of weeks, the shut down has garnered much attention from the public because, although the perception is that piracy websites get busted all the time, this crack down was different. In fact, it may very well be that the cases that follow will serve as groundbreaking legal precedents in trying to establish case law dealing with the Internet.
With the public outrage of the takedown of these movie piracy websites, there is growing speculation among various experts that, in this case, the Feds got it wrong. Here are some of the issues that fairly recently have come to the surface, which may serve as points of legal interest in the future to come.
Questionable Seizure of Domain Names:
In a previous article that I published on AC, I discussed how the government’s seizure of Internet movie websites, such as ninjavideo and tvshack, are on shaky legal ground. The reality is that the legal system is rushing to keep up with the new frontier of the information highway, and the seizure of domain names without due process has not received enough scrutiny.
This is to say that domain owners, such as those at ninjavideo, were not given a hearing to protect themselves against such a seizure. Although it is clear that these websites were more than likely guilty of distributing illegal copies of movies, the seizure of domain names without due process in any situation could lead to unmitigated censure of the Internet by the government. The implication of such censure is frightening. If government institutions like Homeland Security are not bridled by the courts, the disruption in the balance of political power will inevitably lead to the government impinging of the rights of individuals.
Inappropriate Involvement by Homeland Security:
The real question is, why is this a Homeland Security issue? It is more than a little confusing that ICE (Immigration Custom Enforcement), which is part of Homeland Security, was in charge of taking down these websites. In an article by Jay Hathaway, he makes the criticism that Homeland Security is essentially acting at the behest of Hollywood to protect the interests of private companies. Is this really the best use of US taxpayers’ resources?
Because this case heralds the way in which the government will treat issues of piracy and Internet regulation in the future, let us all stay tuned, and make sure the right decisions are being made.