YNOT – Under the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act — controversial new legislation proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy [D-Vt.] — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be granted increased authority to remove from cyberspace any websites suspected of copyright and trademark infringement even before the assertion of lawless behavior has been proven in court. According to recent news reports, ICE already may be eyeing, and even taking down, some alleged offenders.
Or not. Ars technica Senior Editor Nate Anderson reported last week about the operator of one controversial website who thought ICE agents jumped the gun, only to discover his site had been punk’d.
According to Anderson, Lowell Hubbs’ LowellsFacts.com — which offers mostly anti-vaccination hysteria — vanished behind what appeared to be an ominous ICE takedown banner. Irate, Hubbs went public with what he deemed blatant violation of his free-speech rights.
Building on the hysteria, as per usual in the wild west of cyberspace, TorrentFreak began rallying the outraged masses with war cries like
So why has ICE seized the domain and put up the copyright notice? If we had some due process, some proper hearings which allow the facts to come out into the open and be disputed or confirmed, any claims of copyright infringement could be assessed. As usual the public is in the dark.
Anderson, on the other hand, contacted ICE for more information. After all, if ICE really is seizing websites just for the heck of it, people ought to be made aware, right?
“I asked ICE for the affidavit behind the seizure and received a polite call from a baffled-sounding press officer,” Anderson wrote at arstechnica.com. “He knew nothing about the seizure. After looking into it further, he sent along a statement: ‘ICE has not taken any enforcement action against this site. The site owner/administration redirected www.lowellsfacts.com to our name server, where the seizure banner is hosted.’”
D’oh! Hubbs had been cyber-smacked by someone or some group that objects to his ideology. LowellsFacts.com is back online now and as controversial as ever.