When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) isn't prowling our borders for drug traffickers, it's prowling our digital borders and shutting down torrent domains that facilitate the piracy of copyrighted material. But seizing a domain name is a lot like playing Wack-a-mole: the second you hit one, another one rears its ugly head someplace else. ICE is essentially feeding our tax-dollars into that proverbial quarter-slot, while people continue watching bootlegged movies for free.
Calling themselves ICE makes them sound pretty badass, but, as this recent recent New York Times article notes, ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is taking a lackluster approach to Internet piracy. In a raid of alleged piracy websites that should have been called "Operation Freeze 'Em and Seize 'Em," ICE has seized more than seventy domain names associated with file-sharing of copyrighted music and movie files.
Starting this past Friday, visiting a seized site would bring you to a federal warning explaining the site had been seized with a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court. Also on Friday, torrent users were setting internetz forums ablaze with notes and conferences on which websites still worked and where new websites were to be found. Never fear, ye otherwise upright citizen whose entire music collection was free, it's going to take a lot more than shutting down a few domain names to end the free-for-all that is Internet file-sharing.
The problem with seizing a website domain is that there is really not much attached to it. If the owners of, say, torrent-finder.com get shut down, which they did, they can easily just feed their servers through a different outlet like, say, torrent-blaster.com, or some other random name, as long as it's available. That is until the actual people themselves get arrested. But they're headquartered in Egypt, so then it gets tricky, with international border concerns and whatnot.
So while ICE comes up with catchy plays-on-words gems like "Operation In Our Sites" (which is real by the way) to combat rampant Internet piracy, kids and adults alike will continue to watch new releases in ten-part segments with Russian subtitles in order to avoid paying for entertainment. And somehow the world's entertainment industries will manage to stay afloat.
At any rate, whether you agree with what the government is doing or not, I think we can all agree that "ICE" is one of the sweetest acronyms for a federal agency ever devised. And that's something we can feel good about paying taxes for.
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