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Critics say feds, RIAA too closely linked in music site seizure

Records unsealed this week show the U.S. government couldn't produce evidence that violated copyright law even after a year, largely because authorities couldn't get it from music labels.

Greg Sandoval/CNET

Critics of the U.S. government's antipiracy efforts have new ammunition to support claims that authorities are too eager to do the bidding of copyright owners.

Authorities seized, a music blog, and held onto it for more than a year before returning the domain to the owners. This only occurred after the government repeatedly failed to produce evidence that the site had violated copyright laws. David Kravets of first reported the story.

This appears to be the latest public-relations setbacks for the large entertainment companies lobbying Congress for tougher antipiracy laws. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group that advocates on behalf of Internet users and tech companies, blasted away at the secrecy involved in snatching a Web site and "muzzling" site owners without due process.

"The whole story is, in a word, appalling," EFF wrote on the group's blog. "U.S. taxpayers and their representatives have an object lesson, if one were needed, in why the government should not be granted new IP enforcement powers and why we need to reconsider the inclusion of copyright infringement as a basis for civil seizure and forfeiture.", which focused on hip-hop music, was confiscated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) in November 2010 as part of a two-year effort that has resulted in the closure of more than 700 Web sites. Over and over again, the court asked the government to produce evidence and fails to do so -- largely because the Recording Industry Association of American didn't provide the information to ICE officials, Wired reported., teamed with EFF and California First Amendment Coalition, to get the records in the case unsealed.

The RIAA declined to comment but pointed and CNET to a statement it made in December when the government returned the domain to owners.

"Criminal proceedings are not always brought, for a variety of appropriate reasons," the RIAA said. "With respect to Dajaz1, we would note that this particular Web site has specialized in the massive unauthorized distribution of pre-release music -- arguably the worst and most damaging form of digital theft...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."