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Internet registrar refuses to shut sites despite demands from City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit

A registrar has refused to follow requests from the newly formed Intellectual Property Police Division of the Metropolitan Police to suspend domain names citing the demands as an abuse of power and that the division is acting without the legal authority to do so.

The Intellectual Property Crime Unit of the City of London Police began issuing urgent requests earlier this month. Two websites, SumoTorrent and MisterTorrent, lost control over their domain names after the police issued warnings that the sites were breaching copyright law and the UK’s Serious Crime Act. Letters were sent to registrars of other “pirate” sites as well, including emp3world.com, full-albums.net and maxalbums.com.The letters sent by the IP Crime Unit were strongly worded and demanded action from registrars: “The owners of the aforementioned domains are suspected to be involved in the criminal distribution of copyrighted material either directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law for the following offences: Conspiracy to Defraud, Offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988,” the letter states.“Should a conviction be brought for the above offences, UK courts may impose sentences of imprisonment and/or fines. PIPCU has criminal and civil powers in UK law to seize money, belongings and any property in connection with these offences.”

Letters don't have the same authority as the Courts

The registrars were also asked to send traffic of the torrent sites to a landing page with the City of London Police logo, as well as the logos of their entertainment industry partners. There is no law or Court order in play that facilitates this redirection of traffic from an operational website to a page of the City Of London Police. “We request that the aforementioned domain(s) are redirected to the PIPCU Warning Page located at IP address: 83.138.166.114,” the letter notes.MisterTorrent and SumoTorrent were both suspended immediately by their registrars. The site ExtraTorrent was also suspended and the site responded by moving to ExraTorrent.cc after it was suspended. ExtraTorrent responded, “Our registrar and with no court order or due process got scared of the London Police email and did suspend the domain. We are communicating with the registrar to find a logical solution to this chaos.”Not all domain name registrars are blindly complying with the demands of the Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Canada-based easyDNS refused to suspend TorrentPond’s domain, describing the police request as overbroad and unfounded as there is no hint of due process."Who decides what is illegal? What makes somebody a criminal? Given that the subtext of the request contains a threat to refer the matter to ICANN if we don’t play along, this is a non-trivial question,” easyDNS’ CEO Mark Jeftovic demanded to know.“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to ‘some guy on the internet’ sending emails. While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here.”

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