July 17, 2010
Once again, the Obama administration has violated the Bill of Rights. Earlier this month, the feds took down a free WordPress blogging platform and disabled more than 73,000 blogs. The action was completely ignored by the corporate media. The site, Blogetery.com, was told by its hosting service that the government had issued orders to shut down the site due to a “a history of abuse” related to copyrighted material.
|U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel and Vice President Joseph Biden introduce the government’s intellectual property enforcement strategy in June.|
In late June, Joe Biden and Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel said the government would move to take down sites offering unauthorized movies and music. “Criminal copyright infringement occurs on a massive scale over the Internet, reportedly resulting in billions of dollars in losses to the U.S. economy,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bharara’s office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched “Operation In Our Sites” and executed seizure warrants against nine domain names.
Blogetery.com claimed the shut down of 73,000 blogs “was not a typical case, in which suspension and notification would be the norm. This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server.”
“That seems odd,” notes Techdirt, a website that covers government policy, technology and legal issues. “If there was problematic content from some users, why not just take down that content or suspend those users. Taking down all 73,000 blogs seems… excessive.”
The DMCA’s takedown actions are a direct violation of the First Amendment under prior restraint. However, explains law professor Wendy Seltzer, because “DMCA takedowns are privately administered through ISPs… they have not received… constitutional scrutiny, despite their high risk of error.” Seltzer adds that “because DMCA takedown costs less to copyright claimants than a federal complaint and exposes claimants to few risks, it invites more frequent abuse or error than standard copyright law.”
TorrentFreak worries that the Blogetery.com case has set a precedent. “Fears remain… that this action is only the beginning, and that more sites will be targeted as the months roll on. Indeed, TorrentFreak has already received information that other sites, so far unnamed in the media, are being monitored by the authorities on copyright grounds,” writes a blogger on the site
“They say it’s because of copyright infringement, but is it really?… it would seem that only sites/blogs which were streaming movies and TV shows were shut down initially, but upon further perusal, it seems like the Feds just arbitrarily shut down a server with several tens of thousands of bloggers on it without due process as is usual with this administration,” writes Smash Mouth Politics. “How soon before they find some reason to shut down other servers or networks? What’s probably infuriating to the bloggers who were shut down is that they have no recourse. They have no idea why the server was shut down. And the Feds are mum about it. Also, if the bloggers can even get a hold of the server admin, they’re refused any explanation of why.”
In October, 2004, more than 20 Independent Media Center websites and other internet services were taken offline, not in response to alleged copyright infringement but for political reasons. The disappearance of the Indymedia servers was shrouded in secrecy and the ISP and government would not provide an explanation. On October 20, 2004, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit in Texas and argued that “the public and the press have a clear and compelling interest in discovering under what authority the government was able to unilaterally prevent Internet publishers from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
It was later discovered that the ISP had shut down IndyMedia’s websites after they were contacted by the FBI. The FBI alleged that a particular article on the website nantes.indymedia.org contained personal information and threats regarding two Swiss undercover police officers. It was later determined that the article contained neither threats nor names or address information and contained instead photographs of police agents provocateurs masquerading as anti-globalization protesters.
The Obama administration — in step with he Bush administration before it — does not have a problem ordering the government to violate the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments. In its declared effort to prevent online piracy of copyrighted material, the government has trashed the Bill of Rights. It has used the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to intimidate ISPs to shut down web sites.
In June, a Senate committee approved a dictatorial cybersecurity bill that would allow Obama to shut down the internet. The bill, known as the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, would grant Obama the authority to carry out emergency actions to protect critical parts of the internet, including ordering owners of critical infrastructure to implement emergency response plans, during a government declared cyber-emergency. Obama would supposedly need congressional approval to extend a national cyber-emergency beyond 120 days under an amendment to the legislation approved by the committee.