America’s war on blogs

How Homeland Security seized DaJaz1.com for no good reason–and took over a year to give it back

Hip hop, being a genre borne of copyright infringement, has always had a less tortured relationship with intellectual property than the rest of the music industry. Piracy and commerce coexist peacefully. The release of free street tapes and deliberately leaked singles are common teasers for an upcoming album. These “grey market” tactics have been absorbed by the rap hype machine to the point where they’re just another part of the product supply chain. It’s not some hippyish “free culture” thing either, but an effective form of marketing. In the lucrative world of hip hop, piracy is all about the Benjamins.

Try telling that to the Department of Homeland Security. Their Immigration and Customs Enforcement wing started seizing dozens of domains a year ago, wiping entire websites from the Internet based on ongoing (and unproven) copyright violation investigations (I wish I could explain to you what copyright has to do with Homeland Security, but I cannot).

Among these sites was DaJaz1.com, a popular hip hop blog that worked directly with record labels to post sneak peeks of new material. Copyright holders would routinely plant their wares on the site, eager for the advance exposure. Nevertheless, the site disappeared one year ago, replaced with the following terrifying screen:

What happened next is astonishing. Mike Masnick at TechDirt has the full story of how the government stonewalled every effort DaJaz1′s lawyer made to obtain a fair process. A secret investigation took place, and as it dragged on the site owners were provided no opportunity to defend themselves.

On Thursday, DHS returned the domain back to DaJaz1′s owners–but without explanation or apology. It’s worth remembering here that the site was far more than a place to listen to hip hop music. It was a blog, with editorial content. And for the past year it has effectively been censored by the U.S. government under the guise of copyright enforcement.

This comes the same week that a U.S. federal judge ruled that a blogger is not a journalist.

Consider also the case of Wikileaks, a website dedicated to the disclosure of newsworthy documents. Neither Wikileaks nor its editor have been convicted of any crime, and yet pressure from the U.S. government led PayPal to freeze the site’s income stream.

Imagine a similar scenario with a newspaper, and you start to get the picture. To put it plainly, U.S. authorities are developing a different set of free speech standards when it comes to online speech.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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America’s war on blogs

  1. Welcome to the increasing electronic (and real world) security state. As technologies develop, governments (does not matter if they be right, left, or central) struggle with the freedom and power that it gives to everyone. And control is an easy fix that becomes destructive to a democratic society. 

  2. Perhaps the site should have been seized by the special agent in charge of Guantanamo Bay?
    Does copy write have to have anything to do with homeland security? Clearly the capitalists can use any branch of the US government to achieve any action they choose, whenever they wish.
    As far as wiki leaks goes… I stopped using my pay pal account the day I became aware of their ‘directed’ action against wiki leaks. And yes I still have a small balance in the account, money well spent or lost in my mind.
    To some degree it makes you wonder what is in the soul of these people that sell out and enforce the tyrannical wishes of the people that own the US government. You would think they too has concerns about human rights once upon a time. You would think they too realize they are destroying freedom.

    A great American politician once wrote “A man who will give up some freedoms for security deserves neither and shall lose both”.

  3. Great read. Very informative.

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