When the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) seized 82 allegedly copyright-infringing domains two weeks ago, the owner of Torrent-Finder found his domain taken over by authorities along with dozens of websites that were selling counterfeit merchandise. So how did the torrent-seeking search engine end up being lumped in with fake Rolex dealers and counterfeit fashion merchandise?
Waleed, the owner of Torrent-Finder, has been asking himself that same questions and has now hired a lawyer to help him fight against the ICE seizure.
“We really don’t know what happened here. So the legal analysis is based on ICE’s past activity enforcing U.S. customs laws,” David Snead, Waleed’s lawyer, told TorrentFreak this week. “At base, what ICE did is legal, if, in torrent-finder.com’s case, a stretch of the law, which is likely what they intended.”
“There is a civil forfeiture law that has been used for many years by the U.S. to enforce its customs laws, and it has been widely, and legally, used to seize items that infringe copyrights. The classic case would be for customs to seize counterfeit DVDs sold at a flea market,” Sneak explained.”In this case, we believe that ICE’s activities are based on a provision of the statute that allows seizure of items that are facilitating infringement. Because the DNS resided in the U.S., ICE was likely within the law in seizing the DNS, even though the owner of the domain name is not in the U.S. It’s important to note that the site itself wasn’t seized, only the domain name.”
Waleed appears to be the only domain owner out of all that were seized who is protesting the ICE agency’s actions. He believes that there was no basis of wrongdoing that should have provoked the seizure in the first place.
“I am sure I will win the case,” Waleed says. “Any internet user who used Torrent Finder before and understands how it works will know that I am not doing anything different than any other search engine. Besides, the silence of the ICE and keeping the investigation ‘under seal’ can only mean that they have done something wrong,”
Just because the word “torrent” is associated with piracy does not mean that all torrents are illegal. The bottom line is that Torrent-Finder did not harbor any infringing material, and a torrent is not automatically copyright-infringing material anyway. Waleed deserves to win his case, unless the US government can prove that there was something illegal taking place on his domain.