MPAA cheers as ICE seizes web domains

Gloating members of the film industry have praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for continuing its controversial policy of seizing web domains allegedly linked to online “piracy.”

“Operation In Our Sites has not only [purportedly] put illegal sites out of business, but has raised public awareness about this specific form of crime on the Internet,” the MPAA, Screen Actors Guild and a number of major film studios wrote in a letter to the DHS obtained by The Hill.

“Most importantly, these enforcement efforts have resulted in most of these entities ceasing their illegal activity. Movies and TV programs, some of the biggest draws on the Internet, are in many ways the ‘canary in the coal mine.'”

According to the industry reps, stealing and illegally selling copyrighted content are neither “victimless” crimes or “harmless” forms of theft.

“If it is not made clear that this kind of activity is illegal, it has the potential to become the harbinger of even more forms of illegal activity on the Internet,” they added. 

Unsurprisingly, the letter makes no mention of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who recently expressed concern over the policy of rampant domain seizures. 

“I worry that domain name seizures could function as a means for end-running the normal legal process in order to target websites that may prevail in full court,” Wyden wrote in a letter sent to the DHS last month.

“The new enforcement approach used by Operation In Our Sites is alarmingly unprecedented in the breadth of its potential reach.”


Wyden also emphasized that if the Obama administration’s efforts are to be seen as legitimate, it must be able to defend its use of the forfeiture laws by prosecuting operators of domain names, while simultaneously providing a means to ensure due process.

“If the federal government is going to take property and risk stifling speech, it must be able to defend those actions not only behind closed doors but also in a court of law.”