We’ve been talking a lot about Senator Ron Wyden lately, as he appears to be one of the few folks left in Washington DC who seem to actually care about overreaching efforts by law enforcement — especially in the area of copyright.
We’ve talked about his efforts to block COICA, question ACTA and require more oversight on government spying. He’s also not been shy about standing up for what he believes in, even when corporate interests start pressuring him, such as his eloquent response to companies who urged him to support censorship via COICA.
And, now, he’s come out expressing serious concern about the recent domain name seizures done by Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) group. In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and ICE director John Morton (embedded below), Senator Wyden raises numerous questions, and it’s clear that he thinks ICE has gone way beyond what is reasonable and legal. Many of the points in his letter seem to come directly from issues we’ve raised here on Techdirt — including (specifically) the fact that all of the music used to seize the dajaz1.com domain were sent by music industry or artist representatives. He also seems quite concerned about who is driving these seizures, and if it’s just companies trying to “create competitive advantages in the marketplace.”
The letter highlights that we already have a process in the DMCA that lets copyright holders target and remove infringing content, and do so in a way “without impinging on legitimate speech that the website may also facilitate.” He also is clearly concerned about the lack of due process and the fact that these seizures do “not appear to give targeted websites an opportunity to defend themselves before sanctions are imposed.” He also notes that there’s still a “contentious legal debate about when a website may be held liable for infringing activities by its users” — a point that ICE continues to seem to think is settled law, when it is anything but. In fact, he notes: “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.” Finally, he points out that the whole thing is “alarmingly unprecedented in breadth of its potential reach.”
From there, he lists out a series of questions that he wants Holder and Morton to answer: