We lost track of this story after it initially made headlines back in late 2010. But, if readers remember, ICE – Homeland Security Investigations seized a handful of websites in late November 2011, claiming they were infringing on trademarks and/or copyrights, or were just flat out selling counterfeit merchandise.
Among the domain names seized were a few notable hip-hop websites: OnSmash.com, RapGodfathers.com, and dajaz1.com.
While RapGodfathers and OnSmash returned under other domain names, dajaz1.com owner Andre Nasib fought back, behind the scenes, in an attempt to regain control.
After more than a year of he and his attorney being kept in the dark while the government worked in secrecy in hopes of bringing legal action, dajaz1.com was finally returned in December 2011, which authorities said was “the appropriate and just result.”
On Monday (May 7), the hip-hop website lashed out at the recording industry and federal government, likening their seizure of dajaz1.com to a “digital Guantanamo.”
“Seizing a blog for linking to four songs, even allegedly infringing ones, is equivalent to seizing the printing press of The New York Times because the newspaper, in its concert calendar, refers readers to four concerts where the promoters of those concerts have failed to pay ASCAP for the performance licenses,” Nasib said in a statement released on their website.
Wired.com revealed some of the backstory about the entire case recently, revealing that — according to court records they obtained — federal authorities seized the domain based on assertions from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) that it was linking to four “pre-release” music tracks in November, 2010.
After months of attempting to build a civil or criminal case against dajaz1.com, they returned the domain without filing either. The entire time, the site’s owner and his attorney were left out of the loop, as the court record was sealed from them and the public, while the site was redirected to a government landing page saying it was seized by customs officials.
In their official response this week, dajaz1.com says the four songs in question were by Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, Nelly and Reek Da Villian, all of which they claim were provided to them by the recording industry.
The RIAA emailed Wired this weekend, saying it “made every attempt” to to assist the investigation “in a complete and prompt manner.” The organization has also claimed that dajaz1.com has released “thousands” of unauthorized songs over the years. However, they have not been prosecuted for the alleged acts.
Dajaz1 blasted back Monday, saying the “RIAA’s grand and sweeping attacks on dajaz1.com suggest that the RIAA’s powers of demonization far exceed its ability to substantiate its malicious statements with specific, credible facts.”