Last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement service (ICE) began a controversial campaign of grabbing domain names that agents said were violating copyright and trademark laws. Hundreds of domain names have been seized since then, and while civil-liberties groups have criticized the practice, ICE has been praised by the entertainment industry. Only one site, Rojadirecta, has dared to fight ICE in court-and now it’s suffered a major loss.
In a five-page ruling [PDF], a New York federal judge ruled that because Rojadirecta won’t suffer a “substantial hardship” from losing its domain name rojadirecta.org, it isn’t entitled to get its domain name back while it awaits trial.
There’s also some suggestion that the judge clearly sees Rojadirecta as a site that’s skirting the law. He wasn’t impressed by its argument that its forums should have First Amendment protection, writing “[t]he main purpose of the Rojadirecta websites, however, is to catalog links to copyrighted athletic events-any argument to the contrary is clearly disingenuous. Although some discussion may take place in the forums, the fact that visitors must now go to other websites to partake in the same discussions is clearly not the kind of substantial hardship that Congress intended to ameliorate.”
Overall, the fact that ICE’s seizure stood up in its first court challenge is a big win for the agency and the industry groups that supported its aggressive new moves. Many other sites won’t have the resources to mount a challenge like Rojadirecta’s, and even those that do may think twice after seeing these results.
Rojadirecta is a Spanish sports-streaming site that broadcasts many U.S. sporting events live; it advertises itself as a “world’s biggest sports streams index.” The site is just a list of links to video streams of sporting events, and is considered by many to be flouting U.S. copyright law; however, the site has won legal battles in Spanish courts. The company had its rojadirecta.org website seized in January, but began operating at rojadirecta.es.
Following an April complaint by Major League Baseball, even rojadirecta.es stopped showing up in Google (NSDQ: GOOG) searches. However, a search for the word “rojadirecta” still returns the website’s numeric address.
Interestingly, following a complaint by Major League Baseball, rojadirecta.es no longer shows up in a Google search.