Hundreds of Web Sites Seized on Court Order; No SOPA Bill Required

By Veronique Greenwood | November 30, 2011 11:58 am


Corporations don’t have to wait for the SOPA bill to pass to start censoring the Internet, it turns out. Under a ruling just handed down by a federal judge in Nevada, hundreds of websites accused by Chanel of selling counterfeit goods are having their domains confiscated and their names removed from search engine results, with scanty evidence of the accusation’s validity.

The SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act, which you can read more about here, is backed by Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and others and is intended to stem piracy. However, numerous tech companies and civil liberties groups have pointed out that it’s a sledgehammer approach to a delicate problem, since it allows corporations to have the government remove sites from search engines and take other actions that create an Internet blacklist, similar to the Great Firewall of China.

These actions, in fact, would be very similar to what just happened in Nevada. Chanel had filed suits against more than 900 domain names they believed to be selling fake Chanel products. But the proof they provided to the court that these sites were guilty leaves a lot to be desired, Nate Anderson at Ars Technica reports:

For the most recent batch of names, Chanel hired a Nevada investigator to order from three of the 228 sites in question. When the orders arrived, they were reviewed by a Chanel official and declared counterfeit. The other 225 sites were seized based on a Chanel anti-counterfeiting specialist browsing the Web.

On the rather dubious strength of that evidence, the domain names were confiscated, so the sites are no longer accessible, and their names are to be removed from search engine results. The case, coming on the heels of SOPA’s presentation before the House of Representatives, suggests that corporations may not even need legislative approval to cripple sites they want taken down—just approval from a court.

Read more at Ars Technica.

Image courtesy of Owen Prior / flickr

  • John Kwok

    This is a most disturbing development. Those who owed the domains in question deserved to be entitled to the full due process of law – which these “legal” acts orchestrated by Chanel – not treatment reminiscient of press censorship in totalitarian dictatorships. As someone who espouses a predominantly Libertarian political philosophy, I would even err on the side of so-called “hate speech”, allowing websites containing such speech to persist unmolested, no matter how hateful that speech might be.

  • Matt H.

    Due process schmoo process, destroy them all and let god sort it out! The principal of audi alteram partem is just opinion, anyway, and not a foundation of natural justice.

  • Anne

    So, the class war is getting dirtier and dirtier every week…

  • Al Cibiades

    @Matt – Surely you jest? State Irony? Don’t understand the translation?
    Your vision of ‘natural justice’ is a swift sword or gun; shoot first, then do not bother with any questions.

  • David C. R.

    It’s funny how not one person has yet pointed to the fact that this is an EXTREME violation of law on behalf of Congress. An act which, by the way, they are growing increasingly bold in committing. Everybody wants to run around protesting these days but not one of them are protesting the right things. Quit asking the government which has created, or allowed to be created, the vast majortiy of the problems they are being asked to fix. If you want to protest, protest the fact that the government is slowly taking away every right provided to us by the Constitution. As one of our founding fathers so eloquently put it,’Any people that would sacrifice a little liberty for a little security would deserve neither and would lose both.’ I’ll leave it to those who would care to argue with me to find out which one said that since it would require them to actually educate themselves about this country and what it was originally created to be before they argue. And of course I don’t expect that this will actually change anything; I’m not delusional enough to believe that the masses care enough to fight the battles they should be fighting, or are even smart enough to see them when led by the nose to them.

  • John Kwok

    David C. R. –

    I did allude to that tangentially in my comment, but thanks for bringing it. IMHO this is a substantially extreme violation of the First Amendment, unlike for example, the shrill cries of Occupy Wall Street Movement protesters being evicted from their illegal encampments around the country (Anyone who is involved in the Occupy Writers Movement should regard this – not the Occupy Movement – as something that is in dire need of yours and your fellow authors’ attention IMHO.).

  • Fred Ghirardini

    What the heck is a “SOPA”? How can you use an acronym in both the headline and the lede without explaining what the letters stand for?

  • alien

    constitution is not being upheld. violations should not be tolerated.

  • Iain

    @ David
    Without looking it up I will hazard a guess and say Madison. Anyway you are correct, your country is being overrun, your constitutional rights abrogated all in the name of security. Say goodbye to freedom folks, it’s already happening. Habeas corpus is already suspended.

  • Veronique Greenwood

    @Fred, I’ve now spelled it out. You can click through to our previous coverage for more.


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