Obama admin snubs congressional query over website seizures

Two legislators have voiced concern over the Obama administration’s failure to explain the controversial and frenetic seizure of domain names allegedly linked to digital copyright infringement.

“It is hard to imagine that the administration can effectively deter online copyright infringement when they refuse to answer basic questions regarding what they believe constitutes infringement,” U.S Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in an open letter to the White House.

“While the departments finally responded to questions that I sent them more than three months ago, the responses from ICE and DOJ reveal a single-minded determination to stamp out online infringement and demonstrate little if any understanding of the Internet’s value and function.”

According to Wyden, the administration’s abject refusal to explain how linking is different than free speech remains “particularly” troubling.

“Given that hyperlinks in many ways form the foundation of the Internet, efforts to go after one site for linking to another site – which the administration is currently doing and the Protect IP Act would expand on –  threaten to do much more than protect IP.  

“There are many actions that we can all agree the administration can and should be taking to crack down on counterfeiting of U.S. goods and the illegal sale of U.S. IP products that don’t involve advancing novel and unsupportable theories like holding sites liable for linking.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) expressed similar sentiments and emphasized that executing domain seizures without due process can be defined as “a form” of censorship.

“In this instance, our government has seized domains with nothing more than the rubber stamp of a magistrate, without any prior notice or adversarial process, leaving the authors of these sites with the burden of proving their innocence.

“While this might be enough for the seizure of stolen cars or knock-off handbags, it is not enough for web sites and speech on the Internet. It is disturbing that this administration is treating them the same.”