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Congresswoman to Reddit: Crowdsource this Bill
editorial

Congresswoman to Reddit: Crowdsource this Bill

U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is working on a bill to establish better due process requirements for the federal seizure of domain names — and she’s asking the Reddit community for help.

On Monday, Congresswoman Lofgren posted a request on the social news site asking Redditors to crowdsource a legislative proposal tackling domain name seizure.

“The goal is to develop targeted legislation that requires the government to provide notice and an opportunity for website operators to defend themselves prior to seizing or redirecting their domain names,” she wrote.

The U.S. government claims the right to seize many common top-level domains names (.com, .org., .net, .biz) without court approval, and it regularly exercises this authority. Under a program called “Operation in Our Sites,” the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have seized over 750 domain names since 2010, the year congress passed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.

Here’s the problem: there are instances where the DOJ and ICE seize these domains without sufficient evidence. In her appeal to Redditors, Lofgren cites two domain name seizures — of hip-hop blog Dajaz1 and sports streaming site Rojadirecta — that the U.S. government quietly dropped after failing to substantiate copyright infringement charges. In each case, this process took more than a year, during which the site owners couldn’t operate their legitimate businesses.

The future legislation needs to draw a fine line, however, between supporting the rights of legal entrepreneurship and protecting copyright infringers. With too much advance notice, illegal sites could conceivably destroy evidence before a hearing takes place.

"So, Internet policy experts and free speech warriors,” Lofgren asked Reddit, “how, specifically, would you suggest accomplishing these goals?"

Dozens of Reddit users, welcoming the opportunity to engage, keenly responded to Lofgren’s request for assistance. You can view and participate in the conversation here.

This experiment in open governance was inspired by the Reddit community’s fervent dedication to free expression during the SOPA debacle, said Logfren, who is a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, as well as the Committee on Science and Technology.

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