Looks like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) had a change of heart concerning a popular Spanish Internet company’s domains. Nearly 20 months ago, Puerto 80 – an umbrella corporation for the Rojadirecta family of sites – curiously had their Web properties seized; curious because the reason for the seizure was spurious at best. What caused the flip-flop? Judge Richard Posner.
We’ll Take Those Domains, Thank You Very Much
In January of 2011, online legal watchers were aghast that the ICE was able to seize the websites of a foreign company, while standing on a very shaky legal leg. The sites in question were the Rojadirecta .coms and .orgs, a community of sites for professional sports fans. They featured discussion boards and links to game streams.
What made the original domain takeover especially suspect was that despite a Spanish court’s ruling, which said the sites were not in violation of Spanish law, the U.S. government would not release the sites while awaiting an exploratory hearing. Puerto 80 reasoned in a legal filing, “The [U.S.] government has not shown and cannot show that the site ever was used to commit a criminal act, much less that it will be in the future. By hosting discussion forums and linking to existing material on the internet, Puerto 80 is not committing copyright infringement, let alone criminal copyright infringement.” Judge Paul Crotty, however, was not hearing it and explained his decision by focusing on Puerto 80’s ostensible ability to redirect customers easily: “Rojadirecta.com has a large Internet presence and can simply distribute information about the seizure and its new domain to its customers.” U.S. officials also made it clear to Puerto 80 that the only chance they had of getting their sites back was if they prohibited users from linking to any U.S. content.
U.S. Government Drops Claim After Posner Intellectual Property Ruling
After fighting to hold onto Puerto 80’s family of websites, last month, the U.S. government dropped their strangle hold with a terse memo:
The Government respectfully submits this letter to advise the Court that as a result of certain recent judicial authority involving issues germane to the above-captioned action, and in light of the particular circumstances of this litigation, the Government now seeks to dismiss its amended forfeiture complaint. The decision to seek dismissal of this case will best promote judicial economy and serve the interests of justice.
And it all had to do with a ruling handed down by one of America’s most respected jurists, Richard Posner. In the case of MyVidster v. Flava Works, Posner affirmed that embedding video was not copyright infringement. As such, federal officials had no choice but to release the Puerto 80 sites. After all, if case law in the United States does not back up the ICE’s assertion, there’s little legal ground for them to stand on.
It’s no secret that officials are looking to thwart online piracy by any means possible, but it looks like this time their plans were foiled by Judge Posner.
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