The City of London Police have come under fire following moves to seize websites and domain names suspected to be infringing copyright. The “intellectual property crime unit” which was set up to tackle just these kinds of incidents, has faced criticism of the tactics used in such seizures.
Critics allege that the City of London Police have been contacting registrars of disputed domain names and demanding that the rights to the name be ceded immediately. The registrars involve report that these domain and website takedown notices are issued by the Police without any form of court order authorizing the request.
This lack of court order accompanying domain or website takedown requests leaves registrars in a difficult position. They may wish to uphold the law, but complying with the Police’s request could actually leave them in breach of the ICANN policies which govern their activities and specify the need of a court order to support any such request.
It is alleged that the intellectual property crime unit is issuing domain and website takedown requests without following due process. Complaints from Hollywood studios (from whom most of the requests originated) are being forwarded directly to registrars, bypassing the courts and the legal framework supposed to protect domain name owners.
There are several cases currently undergoing arbitration – it will be interesting to note the outcome of each, and how they affect future domain and website takedown requests by the City of London Police.
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