Congresswoman Lofgren: Domain Seizures Trample on Due Process

Silicon Valley Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA.) says that seizing web sites and web domains tramples on due process. Speaking at length with Ars Technica, Lofgren takes aim at the administration’s efforts to take down web sites that allegedly engage in illegal activity like file-sharing, copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.

Lofgren starts by saying that ICE doesn’t have the authority to do what they are doing, that they are trampling on due process because the seizures are almost instant, and that – in some cases – they have violated the first amendment rights of some domain owners. Here is more on that from Lofgren:

"I think I mentioned during the hearing the debacle with the mistaken domain name takedowns in the pornography effort where they basically slandered thousands of people by saying that their sites had been taken down as consequences of child pornography. Can you imagine as a small businessperson what that would do to your business, if you are completely innocent? It’s a mess.

Their apparent complete disregard of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act remedies, where Congress laid out a scheme where you get notice and takedown—that’s the way you deal with this. They never apparently even inquired about that. Further, I think it’s just stunning to think that they would believe that linking sites—they went after Torrent Finder. It’s a search engine! What’s that got to do with this? I mean, if they’re right that they can simply seize that search engine, they can seize Yahoo or Google or Facebook."

In this next comment, Lofgren zeroes in on the whole issue of due process:

"You’ve got the prosecutors coming in, they have a judge sign something, and the people whose property is being seized are never heard from. It doesn’t appear, honestly—though it would not solve the due process problems—that there’s much inquiry on the part of the prosecution, either. Is there a fair use right? Is there an authorized use? Is there legitimate business going on? There’s no opportunity for that to be raised, and once the damage is done, it’s done."

Finally, she talks about whether the COICA will pass this year:

"I don’t know. I think if the American people wake up to what this is, we might have a more vigorous debate. I think of some of my new colleagues on the Republican side and the Tea Party who are worried about big government overreach… I mean, check this out!"

Read the rest of the interview on Ars Technica.

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