Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Homeland Security Violating Due Process, Free Speech In Internet Power Grab

Published on December 3, 2010 by   ·   No Comments

by Hans Bader/OpenMarket.org

Law professor David Post notes that the Department of Homeland Security is seizing entire domain names, not to protect national security, but to enforce run-of-the-mill copyrights.  He calls this an unconstitutional due process violation, noting that “80 websites . . . have now been prevented from speaking to US citizens even though the website operators, whose domains were seized, had no notice or opportunity to respond to the charges against them (and to argue, for instance, that they are NOT infringing copyrights or trademarks), no adversary hearing, and certainly no adjudication before a neutral [judge], that anything unlawful is going on at these sites.”

He also notes that Congress has not yet passed a bill that would have granted the federal government the specific authority to seize domain names.  (Senator Wyden or Oregon has put a hold on a bill known as COICA, the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, that would allow U.S. courts to “seize” domain names belonging to U.S. or foreign websites simply upon a charge, by the Attorney General, that the site was “primarily devoted” to infringing activities.)

Earlier, CEI’s Ryan Radia and 40 law professors criticized COICA, arguing that it contained “egregious constitutional infirmities,” and would lead to restrictions on speech that are unconstitutionally overbroad and violate First Amendment rules against prior restraints.  Professor Post also argues that the domain-name seizures would be “prior restraints on speech” that are “blatantly unconstitutional.”

CEI also took aim at another restriction on speech. Earlier, Ryan Radia and I criticized California’s overly broad law restricting video games for minors as a First Amendment violation, which is before the Supreme Court in the case of Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association.  A bunch of state attorney generals like Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal (rated the worst attorney general in America by CEI) have filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law.  (The idea that minors have First Amendment rights is not new, but rather has been recognized for generations, as I explained in my 2007 law review article — the Supreme Court first ruled that the First Amendment applied to the states in the 1925 Gitlow decision, and soon thereafter applied the First Amendment to minors in its 1943 Barnette decision.)

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