Mozilla stands up to U.S. government takedown request

By on May 6, 2011, 10:00 AM

Last month the Department of Homeland Security asked Mozilla to remove a Firefox extension called MAFIAAFire that helps web surfers access websites whose domain names have been seized by the government for alleged copyright infringement. Because the government seizes only the site name and not the actual servers, affected sites can simply buy a new domain from a non-U.S. registrar and go back online. The add-on in question makes the takedowns less effective by simply redirecting traffic from the old domain to the new one.

Worried that the government may be overreaching and acting without any real legal authority, Mozilla decided not comply and instead has demanded an explanation on why it should. The organization's general counsel Harvey Anderson explained its reasoning in a post on his personal blog, and outlined the questions asked to the Department of Homeland Security to justify their request:

  • Have any courts determined that the Mafiaafire add-on is unlawful or illegal in any way? If so, on what basis? (Please provide any relevant rulings)
  • Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.
  • Can you please provide a copy of the relevant seizure order upon which your request to Mozilla to take down the Mafiaafire add-on is based?

Two weeks have passed and the government has not responded to Mozilla’s questions.

The Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) began seizing domains last year on grounds that the targeted sites are engaging in illegal activities. The fact that this agency works closely with entertainment and media companies, allowing them to sidestep the normal litigation process, has proven controversial. Wikileaks cables have also shown how these companies lobbied to implement similar laws outside the U.S. -- with Spain's "Ley Sinde" a prime example.

The creator of MafiaaFire, meanwhile, posted a statement on the add-on's blog explaining that the program was written in response to what he believes is abusive and illegal behavior from the DHS. "Hat's off to Mozilla for sticking up to them, at first we were afraid if Mozilla would even host it due to it's controversial nature but they truly backed up their open source supporting words with actions," the blog post reads while announcing that a Chrome version is coming soon.




User Comments: 22

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mattfrompa mattfrompa said:

For convenience, here is the whole list of questions. Props to Mozilla.

To help us evaluate the Department of Homeland Security's request to take-down/remove the MAFIAAfire.com add-on from Mozilla's websites, can you please provide the following additional information:

1. Have any courts determined that MAFIAAfire.com is unlawful or illegal in any way? If so, on what basis? (Please provide any relevant rulings)

2. Have any courts determined that the seized domains related to MAFIAAfire.com are unlawful, illegal or liable for infringement in any way? (please provide relevant rulings)

3. Is Mozilla legally obligated to disable the add-on or is this request based on other reasons? If other reasons, can you please specify.

4. Has DHS, or any copyright owners involved in this matter, taken any legal action against MAFIAAfire.com or the seized domains, including DMCA requests?

5. What protections are in place for MAFIAAfire.com or the seized domain owners if eventually a court decides they were not unlawful?

6. Can you please provide copies of any briefs that accompanied the affidavit considered by the court that issued the relevant seizure orders?

7. Can you please provide a copy of the relevant seizure order upon which your request to Mozilla to take down MAFIAAfire.com is based?

8. Please identify exactly what the infringements by the owners of the domains consisted of, with reference to the substantive standards of Section 106 and to any case law establishing that the actions of the seized domain owners constituted civil or criminal copyright infringement.

9. Did any copyright owners furnish affidavits in connection with the domain seizures? Had any copyright owners served DMCA takedown notices on the seized domains or MAFIAAfire.com? (if so please provide us with a copy)

10. Has the Government furnished the domain owners with formal notice of the seizures, triggering the time period for a response by the owners? If so, when, and have there been any responses yet by owners?

11. Has the Government communicated its concerns directly with MAFIAAfire.com? If so, what response, if any, did MAFIAAfire.com make?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Respect to Mozilla for this, Whats great is that they have asked completely legit questions and not just blindly gone headed with it.

2 weeks later and they have still not replied, Somehow, I feel they might never reply...

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Somehow I feel those questions should be answered, before another website is allowed to be taken down.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

cliffordcooley said:

Somehow I feel those questions should be answered, before another website is allowed to be taken down.

I agree completely.

And all this has put MAFIAAFire in the news(I hadn't actually heard of the add-on until now). So if...err when more sites are taken down hopefully people can continue to use MAFIAAFire to find them still.

Guest said:

If they would of never had that take down request I'm sure that add on would of never made the news or gotten much traction...but now that it has...Everyone will be installing it...including myself. When will they ever learn..its better to let a few then to inform the masses...lol

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Yeah, I would much rather work for Mozilla than Google. It just seems like the only sane, good tech company. (Not to mention is non-profit)

Guest said:

Good job Mozilla! Also nice addon, I just installed it. Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security for bringing this addon to my attention and to the attention of the everyone else. I'm sure it will become very popular now! More sites will take notice and add their site's to the list. :)

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Way to go Mozilla, stand your ground Mozilla and keep sticking it to "big brother"!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Way to go Mozilla, stand your ground Mozilla and keep sticking it to "big brother"!
Is it true that "California" is a contraction of the Spanish word, "caliente", (meaning hot), and "fornication" (meaning, well you know)? I guess what I'm asking is, does "California mean", "land of hot sex"?

Moving along, why is the US government "Big Brother" sometimes, yet the freest on earth when discussing any other country. A paradox, wouldn't ya say?

I still think you should stop buying EA games, period. That would go a long way toward building character in EA, and its customers. "Grow together" that's what I say.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Props to Mozilla, makes me happy to be one of your users.

captaincranky said:

Is it true that "California" is a contraction of the Spanish word, "caliente", (meaning hot), and "fornication" (meaning, well you know)? I guess what I'm asking is, does "California mean", "land of hot sex"?

You should check out the show Californication .

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Moving along, why is the US government "Big Brother" sometimes, yet the freest on earth when discussing any other country. A paradox, wouldn't ya say?

It isn't really a paradox, what else do you expect from people who are elected by the money of 'parties who are least interested in democracy'? Secondly, it tries to behave just as an imperial regime will, i.e. try to force others to accept their values (+hegemony), although the real conundrum here is, this same imperial thinking of the regime doesn't believe that they (democracy in truest terms) needs to be practiced at home as well, and people are hardly bothered about it.

I think Mozilla need lots of support for what it did, and probably others in the industry need to follow in their footsteps.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'll take my hat off to Mozilla for doing this...

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

captaincranky said: Is it true that "California" is a contraction of the Spanish word, "caliente", (meaning hot), and "fornication" (meaning, well you know)? I guess what I'm asking is, does "California mean", "land of hot sex"?

Umm.....yeah it does buddy, nice hot California beach, hot sand, warm air, cool ocean waters and hot sex on the beach! I engaged in this type of activity many times and it makes me proud to live in such a sexed up state.

captaincranky said: I still think you should stop buying EA games, period. That would go a long way toward building character in EA, and its customers. "Grow together" that's what I say.

You want me to stop buying EA games? I don't think I've purchased an EA game in about 2-3 years, so as far as that's concerned......"got it covered"!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

You should check out the show Californication .

I've seen a few episodes, interesting stuff. I suppose you could say that David Duchovny went from the "X Files",to the "Triple X Files". It's either a logical progression or high irony, depending on how you look at it. Or, I suppose you could say that he went from studying "outer space", to invading "inner space".

You want me to stop buying EA games? I don't think I've purchased an EA game in about 2-3 years, so as far as that's concerned......"got it covered"!

Ya know, I'm not exactly sure how I managed to go off on that tangent in this thread. But I have to say, your boycott is commendable. Now if the rest of the "injured parties", would do the same, maybe you could change this outcome.

EA games are not exactly software that is needed to earn a living. I get really sick of listening to a bunch of whiny children, that think they're entitled to have their cake and eat it to.

Fact is, I've said over and over, that as soon as companies get you hooked on streaming media, they'll pull the plug on physical media. They have more control over it, period. More DRM, boo hoo.

And yet, we get the "select breed" of individual passing through here spouting BS to the tune of, "I'm too important to waste time going to Redbox", I have really fast internet so I just stream everything". Yeah, some ISP'll pump crap movies loaded with DRM to your computer in a big, big, hurry. Oh, do you read about the bandwidth caps going into force? F***ed you twice, didn't they? And without so much as a wet kiss.

To get back on topic, go Mozilla, go Firefox. Firefox will be my browser for life. And as for the crew that swears by Chrome because "it's faster that Firefox", I have this: "and it's installed with "Google Update" isn't it?" Mercifully, that's one piece of spyware that's not too difficult to remove".

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

IOh, do you read about the bandwidth caps going into force?

Bandwidth caps? I vaguely remember hearing something about this about a year ago, thought it just my friends giving me "bucket talk". I think there should be an official thread started about this, so we can all chime in. I don't want this current topic area to deviate to much.

Caps = There Goes The Planet!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Bandwidth caps?]
It's right here man: http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic164585.html Not a year ago though, just about a week.

Zen Zen, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It's right here man: http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic164585.html Not a year ago though, just about a week.
Thanks for the link Captain, and no I wasn't meaning me and my buddies heard anything official a year ago about caps, it was just something that at the time we were just speculating on. It was one of those "the government is taking everything over, I guess Internet speed will be next" conversations.

I hope this does not become a reality, the Internet both speeds and subject matter is kind of one of the last frontiers, I like it as it is, it doesn't need to be controlled by "big brother", thought you'd like to hear that quote again! :p

Guest said:

Another question I'd like to raise is more philosophical from a natural law perspective. Should Copyright be considered personal property in the first place? Does the government have the right to steal your physical property (domain name) that you homesteaded and bought first because somebody else claims that they've used the word combination before?

Anyway, thank you Firefox.

Guest said:

I would totally pay for anything Mozilla now just because they are awesome for standing up!!! If they end up needing legal representation I would gladly pitch in whatever small amount I could afford!!! Go Mo!!!

Guest said:

Thank You Mozilla.You have my total and utter respect.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Since our guest thread has chosen to necro bump this thread, (from May 5, 2011), has anyone checked to see if the MAFIAfire add on is still available, and is it, as promised, now available for Chrome?

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