Owner of seized domains sues ICE and Home Security

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Spanish owner of two domains seized by the US government earlier this year is fighting back, filing a petition in the Southern District of New York for their return.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials seized the Rojadirecta.com and Rojadirecta.org sites, which consist of user forums and link indexes, back in January.

They claimed that the sites violated the copyright and trademarks of US sports teams by including links to sites that offered unauthorized live streaming of sports events.

But site owner Puerto 80 is  now demanding that the domains be returned, pointing out that two Spanish Courts have already examined whether the sites violate copyright, and determined that they are not.

"The Rojadirecta site does not host copyrighted videos or streams of sporting events, and the government does not allege that it does. It indexes links to streams of sporting events that can already be found on the internet," reads the petition.

"The 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."

Before the domains were seized, says Puerto 80, they were attracting well over a million visitors a day, and counted in Spain's top 100 websites in terms of traffic.

And the company's particularly miffed that its attempts to resolve the issue without resorting to the courts have fallen on such stony ground. All requests, it says, were completely ignored until it threatened to file a legal petition. Even then, says Puerto 80, it was told that a solution could only be reached if Rojadirecta agreed to block users worldwide from linking to any US content.

"We're very glad that Rojadirecta is fighting back so that this and other domain name seizures can receive more careful judicial consideration," says Abigail Phillips of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

She says the EFF will be following the case closely, and will probably weigh in with an amicus brief.