This isn’t a story about an innovative startup; it’s not about a clever app.
Rather, it’s about Dajaz1, a hip-hop website that was abruptly taken offline in 2011 by the US Department of Justice and the RIAA — and kept down under extremely sketchy circumstances. Now, those actions are generating serious questions at the highest levels of government.
May, 2012: “The Extremely Sad Story of a Hip-Hop Site Destroyed…“
So who cares about a little, defenseless hip-hop website? Actually, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), that’s who, not to mention early advocates like the EFF. The Congressional group is now asking why the DOJ and RIAA unfairly shuttered the dajaz1.com domain name in the first place, and deliberately scuttled attempts at a fair trial despite an active Dajaz1 legal defense attempt. All are members of the House Judiciary Committee, and part of group that will make it much harder to do this again.
The inquiry comes as the RIAA is facing decreased contributions from the major labels, yet somehow justifying nosebleed salaries. But those compensation packages could be harder to defend, especially if Washington stops listening to guys like RIAA president Cary Sherman. And after a brow-beating like this one, it looks like the DOJ may have been snookered by a vastly oversimplified industry tale. Which is exactly what the Congressional group raised in a recent, open letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The affidavit on which the seizure was based ultimately proved to be inaccurate. Much of Dajaz1’s information was lawful, and many of the allegedly infringing links to copyrighted songs, and specifically the links that were the basis for the seizure order, were given to the site owners by artists and labels themselves.”
So on one hand, Dajaz1 played the role of pre-release promotional partner, routinely receiving ‘leaks’ from major label staffers who needed the site to stir fan interest. On the other, groups like the RIAA broad-stroked all of this as ‘infringement,’ regardless of the source. And, convinced the US Government that this was worth destroying.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, and similarly-soiled stories surround sites like OnSmash. But it could one of the last: according to details outlined by the Congressional group, the RIAA deliberately ignored attempts by the US Government itself to hear the other side. This is a game that’s difficult to keep playing.
“According to court records unsealed after six months after the ICE [Immigrations & Customs Enforcement] restored the website, ICE requested extensions to allow the RIAA and other ‘rights holders’ to evaluate content obtained by Dajaz1 and answer prosecutors’ outstanding questions. As a result of ICE’s improper targeting and the RIAA’s failure to respond to government requests for assistance, the censorship of what appears to be a legitimate website was unnecessarily prolonged while the website owner was unable to get his day in court…”
And, here’s the saddest part of it all…
“Ultimately, it was determined that there was a lack of probable cause and the seized domain was restored.”