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UK Police Seeking Domain Seizing Power of Its Own

UK Police Seeking Domain Seizing Power of Its Own

Wants Nominet, the Internet registry in charge of .uk domain names, to have the power to “suspend domain names if it has “reasonable grounds to believe they are being used to commit a crime,” but proposal would mean sites could be shuttered before a warrant has been issued or a trial been conducted.

With the controversial Combating Online Infringement & Counterfeits Act, legislation that would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” for shutting down “websites devoted to providing access to unauthorized downloads, streaming or sale of copyrighted content and counterfeit goods,” having already been unanimously approved by the US Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently seizing more than 70 domain names of sites it accuses of offering counterfeit goods or copyright infringing material it’s important to note that the UK is mulling similar domain name seizing efforts of its own.

The Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is concerned that Nominet, the Internet registry in charge of .uk domain names, “does not have any clear obligation in its registrant Terms and Conditions that a domain name should not be used in connection with any activity that would constitute an offence under UK criminal law.”

SOCA says it believes that Nominet needs to amend its Term and Conditions so that there exists a “contractual basis” for under which Nominet can suspend domain names if it has “reasonable grounds to believe they are being used to commit a crime (e.g. a request from an identified UK Law Enforcement Agency).”

It’s not specifically clear for what crimes SOCA would request that a domain name be suspended, but with the Digital Economy Act soon to take effect copyright infringement and P2P are sure to be among them.

The Issue Group currently considering the issue is soliciting discussion on whether “safeguards are necessary (an appeals process, for example), and what information and support might be needed from the industry for responsible officers in Law Enforcement Agencies to help them identify when action is appropriate.”

There is no timetable for when the proposal would be adopted, if it all, but it’s disturbing nonetheless because it could offer police an easy backdoor nuclear option of shuttering websites accused of crimes like copyright infringement without having to actually prove their case in court.

UK citizens are invited to comment on the issue, all of which will be included in the Issue Group discussion.

Stay tuned.

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