Last Thanksgiving weekend, the Department of Homeland Security seized dozens of domain names that were accused of copyright infringement. It was a bold move, especially since there was no due process and accusations that led to the seizure were not substantiated with any real explanation, evidence, or specific complaints.
The music blog dajaz1.com found itself in the middle of all of this. After monitoring the blog and claiming that they had found multiple cases of copyrighted songs being offered for free download, the government took over DaJaz1 with no warning and nothing close to a trial. To them, it was a clear-cut case of illegal activity.
Things weren't so simple, however. The site's owner, known as Splash, fought back and provided proof that many of the songs in question were in fact sent directly to him for promotional purposes. In a digital world where blogs act not only as sources for fans, but avenues for promotion to artists and labels, Homeland Security didn't seem to understand exactly how things worked.
After a long, painful legal battle documented at Tech Dirt, the government has finally dropped the case. It has been over a year, but Homeland Security has finally returned DaJaz1 to its rightful owner. This is only a small step in the path to solving a much larger issue, but it's a step in the right direction.
The Recording Industry Association has issued the following statement:
We understand that a decision was made that this particular site did not merit a criminal forfeiture proceeding. We respect that government agencies must consider a range of technical issues when exercising their independent prosecutorial discretion. Criminal proceedings are not always brought, for a variety of appropriate reasons.
With respect to Dajaz1, we would note that this particular website has specialized in the massive unauthorized distribution of pre-release music -– arguably the worst and most damaging form of digital theft. For a year and a half, we monitored the site, identifying instances where its operators had uploaded music to unauthorized file-sharing services where the recordings could be freely downloaded -- music that artists had created with the expectation that they would have a chance to sell before it was leaked. Dajaz1 profited from its reputation for providing links to pre-release copies, and during that time nearly 2,300 recordings linked to the site were removed from various file-sharing services. We are unaware of a single instance where the site operator objected by saying that the distribution was somehow authorized.
If the site continues to operate in an illegal manner, we will consider all our legal options to prevent further damage to the music community.
We are aware of statements by the site operator that suggest that music companies themselves were the source of at least some of the thousands of recordings available on Dajaz1. Even assuming this to be accurate, it does not excuse the thousands of other pre-release tracks also made available which were neither authorized for commercial distribution nor for uploading to publicly accessible sites where they were readily downloadable for free.