U.S. Courts rule domain seizures do not violate free speech.

Since the end of 2010, the U.S. authorities launched a round of domain seizures. It is within the framework of this struggle against online infringement that, in February 2011, domain names in “.com” and “.org” of the website Rojadirecta, which displays links to replays of sports events, were seized by the American Government.

The company which owns these contended domains, Puerto 80, filed a petition in the Southern district of New York on the grounds of freedom of speech. on April 4, 2011, the United States District Court judge decided to deny the request arguing that the contents toward which those links were directed were copyrighted.
Furthermore, the owner of these domains was able to carry on its online services by registering domains under country code top-level domains << .es >> (Spain), << .me >> (Montenegro) and << .in >> (India).

According to the judgment which was upheld by the Second Circuit Appeals Court on September 16 2011, the U.S. Government is entitled to seize a domain on the sole assumption of infringement of copyright. By doing so the courts have also widened the scope of power of the American Government which, until then, had only seized sites offering illegal material.

Indeed, the fact of providing users with links leading to protected contents can be just as harmful for copyright owners. If the method agreed by the American judges is disputable, the liability of the host of the links could also have been established on the grounds of the “Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act.” Although it might be arduous to prove, one could argue that the fact of providing links, with the knowledge that those links lead directly to illicit contents, should nullify the benefits of the liability limitation of the online service provider (safe harbor).

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