U.S. defends Web site seizures

March 1, 2011 at 3:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says government seizures of Web sites is about protecting U.S. industry, not regulating the Internet.

The federal government has seized the domain names of more than 100 Web sites it alleges were illegally live-streaming sporting events and offering pirated American music and movies as well as counterfeit luxury goods, Politico reported Tuesday.

"Often we get the criticism that we're trying to infringe on free speech, regulate the Internet -- nothing can be further from the truth," ICE Director John Morton said.

The seizures have sparked protests from some tech and public-interest groups, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has suggested that the seizures violate the First Amendment.

Morton responded by saying the government has the authority to "seize and forfeit things that are associated with the crime," and a Web site is one such thing.

"We can seize and forfeit them just like we seize and forfeit bank accounts, houses and vehicles that are used in other crimes," he said. "Any instrument of a crime is subject to our jurisdiction in terms of seizure and forfeit."

Morton says claims of free speech infringement are overblown.

"We don't have any interest in going after bloggers or discussion boards," he said. "We're not about what is being said by anybody. We're about making sure that the intellectual property laws of the United States, which are clear, are enforced."

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