Why Web host shut down 73,000 blogs a mystery

A Web host service shuts down a blogging platform and says authorities forced its hand. But the RIAA, MPAA, and Homeland Security's antipiracy unit hasn't heard of the site. Who's responsible?

Note: For more recent news on this issue, read "Web host to return Blogetery's blogs."

Blogetery.com, a little-known WordPress platform used by more than 70,000 blogs, was shut down by its Web hosting company more than a week ago and nobody seems willing to say why or who is responsible.

BurstNet, the Web-hosting company, informed Blogetery's operator that service was terminated at the request of some law enforcement agency but wouldn't say which one. As for the reason, BurstNet hasn't made that clear either. In an e-mail to Blogetery's operator, BurstNet managers did say that they had little choice but to terminate service.

"Please note that this was not a typical case in which suspension and notification would be the norm," BurstNet wrote to Blogetery's operator. "This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server."

BurstNet executives were not immediately available for comment.

Though BurstNet never indicated Blogetery's problems were caused by copyright violations, TorrentFreak, a blog that covers Web file-sharing issues and broke the story, wrote that the U.S. government may be involved as part of stepped-up antipiracy operations . Nearly three weeks ago, a group of federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security--seized assets and Web sites belonging to people authorities say operated illegal file-sharing sites. President Obama has said his administration is going to get tough on piracy and counterfeiting.

But on Sunday, a spokeswoman for ICE said "while ICE's Internet piracy enforcement efforts are still very much ongoing, we were not involved with the action."

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America said Sunday that the trade group for the four top record labels had nothing to do with Blogetery's shut down. A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America said he had never heard of Blogetery.

That the MPAA and RIAA may not be involved makes sense. Typically, they give warnings before they move like this. They also try to make big news out of any enforcement efforts; they want them to act as deterrents.

And these trade groups have historically had to file lawsuits, spend millions of dollars, and wait years before convincing courts to shut down such sites as TorrentSpy , Isohunt and Napster. If this was a copyright issue, BurstNet would likely have to deal with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor. This a provision designed to protect Web service providers from being held responsible for copyright violations committed by users.

Blogetery's operator said he played by the rules. In the e-mail exchange with BurstNet, the blog platform's operator, said that he always obeyed copyright law. Whenever anyone on his platform was accused of posting links to unauthorized movie or music files, he said he removed the material "within 24 hours."

Sure, there's still lots unanswered questions. We don't know which law enforcement agency is involved. We don't know whether BurstNet disconnected Blogetery with proper cause. We don't know for sure whether the reason for the shut down was due to copyright violations.

But at this point, it sure doesn't appear to be a generic file-sharing issue.

Update 3:20 p.m. PT: In an interview, a BurstNet spokesman declined to identify the law enforcement agency that ordered Blogetery shut down or provide the reason but did say that it had nothing to do with copyright violations.

 

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