LOS ANGELES (CN) - The federal government seized a music website based on unsubstantiated claims that the site had infringed copyrights, unsealed court records show.
Dajaz1.com, a popular hip-hop website, was shut down in November 2010 after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of Homeland Security, investigated it for violation of copyright.
The investigation followed allegations from the Recording Industry Association of America that Dajaz1 had linked to four pre-released tracks.
Wired magazine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the First Amendment Coalition asked the Los Angeles Federal Court to unseal court records related to the case. Those documents suggest the government could not build a case against the website, run by a hip-hop fan Andre Nasib, who went by the nickname Splash.
The unsealed documents
show that the government requested three time
extensions from the judge but never received ample evidence from the RIAA or rights-holders to make a case. The charges against Djaz1 were dropped last year and the site returned to Nasib.
Wired said ICE's practice of seizing websites under federal law raised free speech concerns.
"Nothing in the court records show that the government or the court was concerned about the prolonged seizure of the site that is akin to an online printing press," the article states.
Dajaz1's attorney, Andrew Bridges with Fenwick and West, said he was glad that there was "no probable cause to seek a forfeiture."
"That exoneration, however, did not remedy the harms caused by a full year of censorship and secret proceedings - a form of 'digital Guantanamo' - that knocked out an important and popular blog devoted to hip hop music and has nearly killed it," Bridges said in a statement.
"The original seizure was unjustified. The delay was unjustified. The secrecy in extensions of the forfeiture deadlines was unjustified," he added.