*US government dismisses piracy case against Rojadirecta
By Jennifer Martinez - 08/29/12 05:26 PM ET
The U.S government dismissed its case against Spanish website Rojadirecta
on Wednesday, handing a victory to critics of a controversial government
effort to crack down on piracy.
The Justice Department and Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) seized
two of Rojadirecta's domain names--rojadirecta.com
few days before the Super Bowl in 2011. Authorities accused Rojadirecta of
copyright infringement because the site featured a set of links that
directed people to other sites on the Web where they could watch pirated
broadcasts of professional sporting events.
Puerto 80, the Spanish company that runs Rojadirecta, enlisted the help of
San Francisco-based law firm Durie Tangri to challenge the government's
seizure and fight for the return of its domain names, or Web addresses.
Attorneys for Puerto 80 had argued that simply linking to other sites that
might offer pirated content is not copyright infringement.
"We are pleased that the government decided to end this proceeding and
return our client's property," said Joe Gratz, a partner at Durie Tangri.
"[They have] been deprived of these domain names for 20 months now and had
to engage counsel and fight about this for some time."
Internet advocacy groups, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Zoe
Lofgren (D-Calif.), had criticized the seizure, noting that Spanish courts
had previously exonerated Rojadirecta of copyright infringement. They also
argued that Rojadirecta was complying with the copyright laws in the
country it was operating out of.
The seizure was part of the joint "Operation in our Sites" effort led by
Justice and ICE to clamp down on piracy and the rise of websites that
illegally offer copyrighted movies, music and other content. Critics had
claimed this operation threatened free speech on the Web and lacked due
process. They also argued that it would put the United States in hot water
with other countries for shutting down websites that are operating legally
within their borders.
"From our point of view the flaw is as it always has been: Linking to sites
on the Internet isn't copyright infringement," Gratz said. "The same way
the Yellow Pages isn't liable if someone listed in the Yellow Pages is
doing something wrong, a website that's linking to other sites ... isn't
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York,
submitted the notice of voluntary dismissal on Wednesday. In a letter to
U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty, the federal prosecutor didn't shed much
light on the reasoning behind the decision to return Rojadirecta's domain
"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," Bharara wrote. "The decision to seek dismissal of
this case will best promote judicial economy and serve the interests of
Advocacy group Public Knowledge, an opponent of the government's seizure
operation, cheered the government's decision to dismiss the case.
"It is far too easy for the government to seize domain names and hold them
for an extended period even when it is unable to make a sustainable case of
infringement," said Sherwin Siy, vice president of legal affairs at Public
Knowledge. "The constant expansion of copyright enforcement laws has given
us a system where website owners are effectively treated as guilty until
proven innocent. These sorts of abuses are likely to continue until there
are adequate safeguards to assure accountability."
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