FBI_Badge_&_gun Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

Over the last few years, the United States Justice Department and Homeland Security’s Immigration & Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) have been seizing various websites through charges of criminal copyright infringement with questionable tactics and disputed legal authority.

In 2012, three Android-focused websites were seized by the Department of Justice. With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com, a trio of so-called Android piracy sites. On Monday, American prosecutors announced that two of the four men involved with the sites have pleaded guilty to copyright infringement. The case marks the first time that U.S. authorities have successfully prosecuted a case involving pirate app stores.

The case marks the first time that U.S. authorities have successfully prosecuted a case involving pirate app stores.

Now, via TorrentFreak, the Department of Justice is reporting that the third defendant, Kody Jon Peterson — who was involved in the operations of SnappzMarket — pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. The plea agreement also notes that the Government attorneys and agents are allowed to contact Peterson with no notice and communicate with him without his own attorney being present:

“Peterson also agreed to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation, including producing all relevant records and attending interviews when required. However, in addition to more standard types of cooperation, the 22-year-old also agreed to go much further. A copy of his plea agreement obtained by TF reveals that Peterson has agreed to work undercover for the Government.”

While the Department of Justice was successful in prosecuting this specific case, it’s hard to see the justification for this type of effort towards these mobile app pirates. This reminds me of the severe over-reaction by ICE towards a number of vendors in South Florida who were repairing phones with aftermarket parts. ICE decided it was best to send 20 agents rushing into these stores as if they were taking down a drug raid. Meanwhile, stores like these, were fixing Apple phones at reasonable prices for people who most likely could not afford to fix their phones at an Apple store.

The Department of Justice seems to handle all the alleged piracy sites the same way: Pull down with no warning, give no hearing and give no due process.

Two years ago, TechDirt did a fantastic job covering the seizure of a domain named Dajaz1. It took the Department of Justice over a year to admit that they had no evidence. In fact, after the site had been withheld by the government for over a year, Congress seemed to finally take notice that the government was holding the site hostage without bring an actual lawsuit.

The Department of Justice seems to handle all the alleged “piracy” sites the same way: Pull down with no warning, give no hearing and give no due process. Before last year’s Super Bowl, ICE seized 313 websites without any adversarial hearing along with a “few” arrests for counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise. ICE did not publicize the fact that they also had seized legitimate merchandise.

Several weeks ago, the Homeland Security’s ICE division joined with GoDaddy to censor a Mexican political protest site. GoDaddy suspended the domain and ICE would not give an explanation as to why they were taking down the site. When Mike Masnick over at TechDirt was looking into filing FOIA requests about this case, he asked for a fee waiver, which is standard procedure. Under FOIA, government agencies can charge for the requested work, but they’re supposed to waive the fees if the request is for the public interest or reporting. ICE rejected his fee waiver request. Why? Because…ICE actually told him they rejected his request “because” with no additional information.

determined that your fee waiver request is deficient because .

You may remember that ICE is the part of the government who interrogated a man because he wore Google glasses into a movie theatre. They also got into the news several months ago by shooting and arresting the wrong man. They also have a person employed that encourages the mass murder of whites and the “ethnic cleansing” of “black-skinned Uncle Tom race traitors.”

Piracy in general has been over-stated for years now by the same groups that are seeing record profits every year. The US movie industry’s overall revenues are up four percent globally in 2013 to $35.9 billion. It is almost a weekly occurrence that we hear the MPAA telling anyone who will listen that the sky is falling for the movie business due to the effects of online piracy (which mirror their rhetoric towards VCRs in the 1980s).

If it makes you all feel better, the Government may soon have the ability to remote access any computer (with a warrant of course, wink wink).

“If passed as currently drafted, federal authorities would gain an expanded ability to conduct “remote access” under a warrant against a target computer whose location is unknown or outside of a given judicial district. It would also apply in cases where that computer is part of a larger network of computers spread across multiple judicial districts. “

Comments
Read comments