New Police Unit Threatens Domain Registrars Over Piracy
Shut down websites we deem illegal or face the consequences, says PIPCU
The UK’s recently founded Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has started sending out letters to dozens of domain name registrars, demanding that the addresses of websites suspected of piracy are suspended within 48 hours.
According to TorrentFreak, torrent indexing engines SumoTorrent.com, MisterTorrent.me and ExtraTorrent.com were among the first victims of this new campaign. All three were forced to move to new addresses on Tuesday.
However, some registrars are questioning the legal basis for these takedowns. EasyDNS from Canada has refused to shut down TorrentPond.com and advised PIPCU to get a court order. “I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to ‘some guy on the Internet’ sending emails,” wrote Mark Jeftovic, CEO of the company. ”While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here.”
Over the last two years, websites like the Pirate Bay, Kickass-Torrents and Fenopy have been blacklisted by UK ISPs after the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), an industry group representing music copyright holders, went to court.
The copyright crusade
The text of the letter sent out by PIPCU states that “owners of the aforementioned domains are suspected to be involved in the criminal distribution of copyrighted material either directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law for the following offences: Conspiracy to Defraud, Offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988.
“Suspension of the domain(s) is intended to prevent further crime. Where possible we request that domain suspension(s) are made within 48 hours of receipt of this Alert. In respect of the information provided by us, we respectfully ask you to consider your liability and the wider public interest should those services be allowed to continue.”
The letter reminds that the new police unit has criminal and civil powers to seize money, belongings and any property in connection with the copyright offences. It ditches the usual ‘innocent until proven guilty’ terminology, calling the operators of the websites “criminals”.
But instead of a court order, the document points to an outdated section of ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), which states that accreditation as a registrar can be terminated if the organisation is found to have ‘permitted illegal activity in the registration or use of domain names’.
It also asks to redirect users that try to access the offending domains to 220.127.116.11 – a page which displays PIPCU statement, along with the banners of copyright protection groups and legal content providers.
“We have an obligation to our customers and we are bound by our Registrar Accreditation Agreements not to make arbitrary changes to our customers settings without a valid FOA (Form of Authorization). To supersede that we need a legal basis. To get a legal basis something has to happen in court,” said Jeftovic.
“If I can’t make various governments and law enforcement agencies get warrants or court orders before they crack my private communications then I can at least require a court order before I takedown my own customer.”
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