United States Faces Legal Challenges to Domain Name Seizures

Puerto 80 Projects, owner of one of Spain’s most popular websites, is suing the United States government for seizing their domains, rojadirecta.com and rojadirecta.org.

These sites were seized on January 31st, 2011 as part of “Operation in Our Sites,” an anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting crackdown that uses civil seizure law to confiscate domain names. Rojadirecta was primarily a link-sharing portal that linked to both authorized and unauthorized streams of sports games, but also hosted forums devoted to sports discussions.

Wired’s Threat Level estimates that up to 128 domains have been seized since the program started last year. The program targets link-sharing portals, streaming and P2P download sites, as well as sites that sell counterfeit goods. Puerto 80 Projects is the first of the seized domains to fight back against the government, alleging that the Department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement cannot show that Rojadirecta was committing copyright infringement. The lawsuit claims that the site “was used for substantial non-[copyright]-infringing uses” and that failure to return the domain could result in “the number of visitors to the site being permanently reduced.”

As Ars Technica reported in February, the domain name seizures have been controversial, with opposition from Sen. Ron Wyden as well as many Internet experts. However, the Puerto 80 lawsuit will be the first test of the domain name seizures in court.