Homeland Security Admits It Seized A Hip Hop Blog For Five Years Despite No Evidence Of Infringement; RIAA Celebrates

from the fuck you, riaa dept

Last month, we were actually the first publication to report that Homeland Security had very quietly “returned” two domains that it had “seized” five years ago based entirely on totally bullshit claims from the RIAA. We focused our story on the search engine torrent-finder, but also mentioned that it appeared that DHS had returned OnSmash.com as well. As we had noted, back when the domain was first seized, OnSmash was a popular hip hop blog that many in the industry purposely sent their music to, because it was great for marketing and publicity. In fact, Kanye West had been known to promote OnSmash himself. That doesn’t sound like a site “dedicated to infringement” as Homeland Security’s ICE division claimed in the affidavit used to seize the website.

Four years ago, we were wondering whatever happened to OnSmash, as other sites that had gone to court over the seizures had had their domains returned — and it was admitted that this was because the RIAA (which had told ICE about these websites) failed to provide any actual evidence. It appears the same thing happened with OnSmash, though it just took an extra four years to get the domain back, as OnSmash’s operator, Kevin Hofman, chose not to take the riskier path that Dajaz1 took in going to court. But, the NY Times story about the return of OnSmash gets a quote from ICE admitting that they never had enough evidence:


When asked about the return of OnSmash and another site, Torrent-Finder.com, which was seized in the 2010 raid and also returned to its operator this fall, Matthew Bourke, a spokesman for the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that after working with the Justice Department, “it was determined there was not enough evidence to seize the websites.”

Think about that for a second. The US government shut down a blog for more than five years and only after giving it back now admits that it never had enough evidence to seize the website.

I’m gong to repeat that:


The US government shut down a blog for more than five years and only after giving it back now admits that it never had enough evidence to seize the website.

Meanwhile, the RIAA, which told the agent in charge of the investigation that these sites were nothing more than dens of infringement, is so obnoxious as to now celebrate them being returned with some bullshit line about how they now “wish to be legitimate operators”:


Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the recording industry association, said he welcomed the return of the sites, as long as they played by the rules. “If the managers of some of these sites now seek to have the domain name returned because they wish to become legitimate operators, that’s a success,” he said.

What a load of horseshit, Lamy. These sites didn’t “now seek to have the domain name returned.” They asked for it back almost immediately after they were seized on false pretenses based on false information provided by the RIAA. Perhaps, instead of some bullshit about these sites suddenly wanting to play by the rules, Lamy should walk down the hall to see his colleague Carlos Linares (who is still employed by the RIAA) and ask him what was up when he lied to federal investigators, helping to shut down a popular blog, violating the site’s First Amendment rights?

This is from the affidavit used to seize OnSmash:






Now, Hofman is trying to rebuild the blog, having basically lost years of momentum due to the RIAA’s lies.


Mr. Hofman, whose day job is managing digital accounts for musicians, has already restarted OnSmash, but he said he was aware of the challenges he would face. The site has lost most of its momentum, and blogs — once at the forefront of online music promotion — have largely been superseded by social media. He noted one advantage: By embedding links from sites like SoundCloud and YouTube, where artists and labels post songs directly, there is no more gray area concerning the source of the music.

“The plan now,” Mr. Hofman said, “is to do my best to pick up the pieces.”

Oh yeah, insult to injury: Homeland Security made him pay $7 to get the domain back.

I’m still amazed that these stories haven’t gotten more attention. Again, if the federal government seized and shut down a print magazine people would be up in arms. But they do that for a bunch of online magazines and nobody seems to care? Again, they seized the domain based on false information and kept it for five years knowing that they didn’t have enough evidence to have made the seizure in the first place.

And the guy who helped at the RIAA is still employed. Has anything happened to the ICE agent, Andrew Reynolds, who wrote the affidavit? How about the magistrate judge, Margaret Nagle, who apparently had no problem signing off on the seizures of internet blogs based on faulty evidence? Apparently, she recently retired and is now acting as a mediator. You know what might have been helpful? If someone had actually been able to mediate things back in 2010 before the RIAA, Homeland Security and Judge Nagle worked together to shut down an internet news website with no justification.

I’ve issued some FOIA requests to Homeland Security about both OnSmash and Torrent-Finder, and so far they’ve said that it would be “too burdensome” to search for any emails mentioning either site. I’m hopeful that more information will be exposed on what a colossal screwup this was.

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Comments on “Homeland Security Admits It Seized A Hip Hop Blog For Five Years Despite No Evidence Of Infringement; RIAA Celebrates”

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60 Comments
That One Guysays:

Oh sweet naivity...

Mr. Hofman, whose day job is managing digital accounts for musicians, has already restarted OnSmash, but he said he was aware of the challenges he would face. The site has lost most of its momentum, and blogs ? once at the forefront of online music promotion ? have largely been superseded by social media. He noted one advantage: By embedding links from sites like SoundCloud and YouTube, where artists and labels post songs directly, there is no more gray area concerning the source of the music.

?The plan now,? Mr. Hofman said, ?is to do my best to pick up the pieces.?

You know why his site was seized in the first place? Because there’s no penalty for lying with regards to copyright, as evidenced by the very case that cost him the site.

Has that changed in five years? Not in the slightest.

If he thinks that he’s somehow ‘more protected’ by only using embeds, he’s in for quite the unpleasant surprise. Nothing stopped someone from claiming his site was ‘dedicated to infringement’ before when it hosted content sent in by the labels themselves, and nothing stops that from happening again if a bot flags his site for whatever reason, or someone feels like metaphorically kicking him in the teeth by filing a few bogus DMCA claims.

After all, what do they have to lose?

Mike Masnicksays:

Re:

Sounds like Hoffman is an idiot for not getting an attorney. If he had one he could of sued RIAA for the lies in the affidavit and gotten his domain back sooner. What a moron!!!!

1. He had an attorney.

2. Disagree that he was “a moron.” There were a few different ways to appeal the process, and the ones that involved going to court are much more risky and much more expensive. I cannot fault Hofman for not choosing that one.

3. He chose an alternative process called an “offer in compromise” which DHS itself says is a way to seek the return of your seized property.

That is, he actually followed the rules (as he did for his site) and it’s just that DHS fucked him over with help from the RIAA.

Not a Moronsays:

Re: Re:

Well Pirate Mike, do you actually filter Pirate Mike posts?

Inquiring minds want to know if Pirate Mike filters Pirate Mike or if some Anonymous Coward is simply reported by the community because he is a moron.

I’ll reply to my post from another browser on another IP address right after posting this to find out.

The timestamps should reveal the truth to this test. I will not be able to reply to a post that is filtered…….

AJsays:

They seized someone’s property illegally. They openly admit they committed theft when they stated they “never had enough evidence:”. Someone please explain to me why they are not prosecuted?

How exactly do the AA’s or the representatives of the legal system expect the people to have any respect for the law if those who govern it, do not follow it, and are not held accountable by it?

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Simple, because Obama likes it this way.

He could stop it, Bush could have stopped it, and our Next President will be able to stop it.

Lets just sit and wait and see if the “next” president will be any different from the last one.

As the pack of ignorant and sheepizens we are, I am certain everyone has realized that we have been voting in the same guy for quite some time… just with different hair do’s.

That’s right, you can fool most of the people most of the time!!! Government itself stands as the eternal monument of mankind’s evil and depravity!

Anonymoussays:

NY Times story url ?

? the NY Times story about the return of OnSmash?

Would someone please provide a url for the New York Times story that this article refers to?

I’m sure one of those links leads to that story?I just don’t seem to be able to figure out which one. What can I say? It must be Monday morning after the holidays. Anyhow, I could use some help here.

Roger Strongsays:

> Lamy should walk down the hall to see his colleague Carlos Linares (who is still employed by the RIAA) and ask him what was up when he lied to federal investigators, helping to shut down a popular blog, violating the site’s First Amendment rights?

Judging by Lamy’s logic (They want their domains back because they’ve changed their ways!), Linares should respond by asking Lamy whether he still beats his wife.

Spikesays:

The problem was if he had made any mistake in running the site or said stuff off the record (and were spied on) that could indicate that he maybe once or twice “willfully” infringed (easy to do without thought) on the odd occasion it would have been translated by the DoJ into that he based the entire site’s existence on infringement and they would have tossed the whole criminal copyright bullshit on him to send him away for a few years.

My guess is there was no Skype logs or existing emails to seize that could be used against him.

Mason Wheelersays:

It’s hard to feel too broken up by this, considering that even if they weren’t infringing copyright, the music these sites were promoting has had well-documented strong ties to gang violence, drug culture, misogyny culture and all-around sleaze for decades. Heck, when the example you’re holding up to try to establish the legitimacy of the site is freaking Kanye West, that belongs right up there on the Not Helping Your Case leaderboard with the guys who point out that if we shut down YouTube we might miss out on the next Justin Beiber, but three or four steps higher.

TLDR: bad things happened to bad people. Why shed a tear for them?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s making something called an analogy, Mason.

analogy
[uh-nal-uh-jee]

noun, plural analogies.
1.
a similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based:
the analogy between the heart and a pump.
2.
similarity or comparability:
I see no analogy between your problem and mine.

Basically, he’s comparing your apathy at a site being taken down for no reason to the apathy about Eric Garner’s death because he was breaking some law.

You not liking the genre of music, despite it’s legal status, somehow makes the take down of his site, despite the lack of evidence justified.

The same way that people justified the fucktard cop killing a man over untaxed cigarettes…you know, because the law.

Did that help?

Ninjasays:

Re: Re:

Good Lord, I’m gonna assume he wasn’t thinking properly when he said that. But you see, even though you are right and pretty much obvious, from my experience people in general CANNOT see how monumentally stupid such attitude is. There’s the saying here “when water hits the butt people learn to swim” and it’s pretty much the case: these people don’t see a problem because they were never in the receiving end of censorship.

Mike Masnicksays:

Re:

It’s hard to feel too broken up by this, considering that even if they weren’t infringing copyright, the music these sites were promoting has had well-documented strong ties to gang violence, drug culture, misogyny culture and all-around sleaze for decades. Heck, when the example you’re holding up to try to establish the legitimacy of the site is freaking Kanye West, that belongs right up there on the Not Helping Your Case leaderboard with the guys who point out that if we shut down YouTube we might miss out on the next Justin Beiber, but three or four steps higher.

TLDR: bad things happened to bad people. Why shed a tear for them?

Because you don’t like some music and what it’s talking about, you’re totally okay with violating their First Amendment rights?

That is the stereotypical “I support free speech, but not this speech I don’t like.” Frankly, I find your ridiculous argument that the music is all about “gang violence, drug culture, misogyny” to be offensive. Is it then okay to argue you should be barred from saying it just because I find it offensive?

Heck, when the example you’re holding up to try to establish the legitimacy of the site is freaking Kanye West, that belongs right up there on the Not Helping Your Case leaderboard with the guys who point out that if we shut down YouTube we might miss out on the next Justin Beiber, but three or four steps higher.

The point — which apparently went WAY over your head — is that one of the largest music stars today was supporting the website. That you read something else into it suggests a rather problematic view on your part.

TLDR: bad things happened to bad people. Why shed a tear for them?

No, a publication got censored because of government overreaction. There is no evidence that it involved “bad people”. And we “shed a tear” for them because we don’t abide by censorship. That you apparently have no problem with it says pretty much all I need to know about you.

Mike Masnicksays:

Re: Re: Re:

And yet you shed zero tears for artists being ripped off every hour of every day.

I am quite upset when artists are “ripped off” for real. What I find troubling is when folks like yourself call market competition “being ripped off.”

Or, when you have plenty of ways to prevent any actual monetary loss, but choose not to take it, and choose to whine instead (your standard MO).

But actual artists being ripped off — such as through predatory deals with labels, that certainly gets me angry as well.

But, of course, that’s still on a very different level than THE GOVERNMENT violating the Constitution. And I’ve yet to see any evidence of the gov’t violating the constitution for artists.

JMTsays:

Re: Re: Re:

“And yet you shed zero tears for artists being ripped off every hour of every day.”

That’s not true, there have been plenty of Techdirt articles about record label contracts.

“Go die in a fire, you lying, hypocritical sleazeblob.”

Yes, continue actively reinforcing the strongly negative opinion the general public has of the recording industry (not artists), that’ll get ’em buying CD’s again!

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“That’s not true, there have been plenty of Techdirt articles about record label contracts.”

No, no… those don’t count for random reasons, judging by the defences launched by ACs on every one of those articles. It’s only when someone outside of the major labels might have lost some unknown amount of revenue for the artists that it counts. Record labels directly stealing from artists is OK.

Mason Wheelersays:

Re: Re:

The point — which apparently went WAY over your head — is that one of the largest music stars today was supporting the website.

If by “music” you mean “rap.” To people outside that particular fandom, he’s best known as “that attention-whore jerk who shamefully mistreated Taylor Swift.”

That you read something else into it suggests a rather problematic view on your part.

I find that fact that you think that thinking that someone’s character matters is problematic problematic.

That One Guysays:

Re:

Congrats on failing the test.

If you don’t support the rights of ‘bad people’, then you’re missing the point, because those are the exact same rights that protect ‘good people’.

They either protect everyone or no-one, because if rights only apply to ‘good people’ then they’re no longer rights, they’re privileges, and can be ignored at will or whim.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

something something lying to federal authorities
something something false legal claims

something something apparently if you claims to hold a copyright the law can’t do anything to you.
Can’t make you pay for taking down content incorrectly.
Can’t make you pay for stealing domains.
Can’t make you pay for lying to federal agents.

Perhaps someone would like to show the **AA’s this story and point out that the reason no one respects copyright is because the cartels have no respect for the law or citizens.

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