Mozilla General Counsel Harvey Anderson says Department of Homeland Security contacted Mozilla about removing MAFIAA Fire add-on that redirects visitors to seized domains to new sites, but asked that it first legally justify the request.
Last month I reported the release of the MAFIAA Fire redirector plugin for Firefox and Chrome that circumvents the Department of Homeland Security’s “Operation in Our Sites” domain name seizure campaign, and it appears that DHS has already asked Mozilla to take it down.
“Recently the US Department of Homeland Security contacted Mozilla and requested that we remove the MAFIAA Fire add-on,” writes Mozilla General Counsel Harvey Anderson. “The ICE Homeland Security Investigations unit alleged that the add-on circumvented a seizure order DHS had obtained against a number of domain names. MAFIAA Fire, like several other similar add-ons already available through AMO, redirects the user from one domain name to another similar to a mail forwarding service.”
The way it works is that it allows you to “un-censor illegally taken down domains.” MAFIAA Fire maintains a list of URLs and their mirror sites so that if or when ICE seizes a domain the plugin will take you to the new site without you even noticing.
Anderson said Mozilla is always more than willing to “comply with valid court orders, warrants, and legal mandates, but in this case there was no such court order.”
Mozilla replied to DHS’ request by asking it a series of questions so that it can better understand its “legal justification.”
1. Have any courts determined that MAFIAAfire.com is unlawful or illegal inany way? If so, on what basis? (Please provide any relevant rulings)
2. Have any courts determined that the seized domains related to MAFIAAfire.com are unlawful, illegal or liable for infringement in any way? (please provide relevant rulings
3. Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.
4. Has DHS, or any copyright owners involved in this matter, taken any legal action against MAFIAAfire.com or the seized domains, including DMCA requests?
5. What protections are in place for MAFIAAfire.com or the seized domain owners if eventually a court decides they were not unlawful?
6. Can you please provide copies of any briefs that accompanied the affidavit considered by the court that issued the relevant seizure orders?
7. Can you please provide a copy of the relevant seizure order upon which your request to Mozilla to take down MAFIAAfire.com is based?
8. Please identify exactly what the infringements by the owners of the domains consisted of, with reference to the substantive standards of Section 106 andto any case law establishing that the actions of the seized domain owners constituted civil or criminal copyright infringement.
9. Did any copyright owners furnish affidavits in connection with the domain seizures? Had any copyright owners served DMCA takedown notices on the seized domains or MAFIAAfire.com? (if so please provide us with a copy)
10. Has the Government furnished the domain owners with formal notice of the seizures, triggering the time period for a response by the owners? If so, when,and have there been any responses yet by owners?
11. Has the Government communicated its concerns directly with MAFIAAfire.com?If so, what response, if any, did MAFIAAfire.com make?
“One of the fundamental issues here is under what conditions do intermediaries accede to government requests that have a censorship effect and which may threaten the open Internet,” he adds.
“In this case, the underlying justification arises from content holders legitimate desire to combat piracy. The problem stems from the use of these government powers in service of private content holders when it can have unintended and harmful consequences. Longterm, the challenge is to find better mechanisms that provide both real due process and transparency without infringing upon developer and user freedoms traditionally associated with the Internet,” he says.
The ACLU weighed in on the news by praising Mozilla for its decision to demand that the DHS justify its request rather than blindly kowtow to the govt demands, as usually seems to happen in most cases.