Hey Assange, Take WikiLeaks.ch to Montenegro

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 12/06/2010 12:09:00 AM
Whatever you may think of Julian Assange's now world-famous leaks, you have to wonder about his follow-through. Having plied a cache of cables from the world's most formidable foreign service, he's had a more challenging time keeping his leaks online. As we keep reading nowadays, Amazon decided to discontinue hosting WikiLeaks (allegedly under duress). Meanwhile, the cash flow to Julian Assange & Co. has also been severed as PayPal has similarly cut off handling donations to this "illegal" operation.

So having done the hard work of acquiring American secrets, it is thus puzzling to me why he's not thought of keeping his online renegade activities afloat. Odd? Yes, of course. Puzzlingly enough, Assange hasn't observed the tactics of those who've been in American crosshairs for a much longer period of time--Internet software piracy sites. As if on cue, the world's top private tracker site, Demonoid, has moved its registration to--get this--Montenegro
Earlier this week Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had seized some 82 domain names as part of its ongoing “Operation In Our Sites” and already one site, Demonoid.com, is trying to stay one step ahead of the game by migrating its site to a new address. “We are in the process of migrating the site to our new address, Demonoid.ME,” says the BitTorrent tracker site.

When it comes to foreign sites the US govt can only seize the domain name pointers of domains under its jurisdiction. This includes those top-level domains administered by Verisign, and thus ICANN [like .COM].

Though no torrent tracker-hosting sites have been targeted thus far, the latest round of “Operation In Our Sites” did ensnare the BitTorrent tracker search engine Torrent-finder.com. If ICE can seize the domain name of site that doesn’t even host torrent trackers then surely it could one that actually does.

Demonoid.com is simply trying to stay one step ahead of the game by registering the site with .me, the top-level domain for the tiny country of Montenegro. It’s another in a long series of tug wars between govt and technology, despite the fact that the latter is always guaranteed victory in the end.
Well of course this writeup views Demonoid's actions favourably since it's called, erm, ZeroPaid. In any event, the Yanqui cybercops at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have triggered a backlash among the money-for-nothing online crowd with its "Operation in Our Sites" (v. 2.0, mind you) that targets those selling pirated merchandise:
Seizure orders have been executed against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0, as part of an ongoing investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers," said ICE Director John Morton. "The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when counterfeit goods are trafficked."
Unlike the hostage-to-events WikiLeaks, however, it seems the other torrent sites have drawn the connection: if the US is seizing domains of those selling pirated goods, it won't be long before it does the same to intellectual piracy transgressors. Hence, the exodus out of .COM to places like .ME Montenegro is well underway:
A sort of mass-exodus from US-controlled .COM domains is taking place, with dozens of sites registering alternate domains in nations where chances of persecution for association with copyright infringing activities is slim. This action has been sparked by the domain seizures in the United States, performed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that occurred just a week ago. Site owners are choosing domains which are controlled by nations that either don’t have strict copyright laws, or even locations that do have the laws but lack the resources to enforce them.

Demonoid, the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker, chose to leave their .COM domain behind completely in favor of a .ME domain operated by the nation of Montenegro. Others are, ironically, leaving the US, supposedly the “Land of the Free,” for China, a country well-known for their rampant censorship.

Gary Fung, owner of BitTorrent engine Isohunt, is based in Canada, however his own run-ins with the American film industry has driven him to reserve a backup .HK domain in case the US government decides to seize his .COM. “Countries like China censor for political reason, US with COICA will censor for copyright and commercial reason,” Fung told TorrentFreak. “It’ll be a chilling parallel put into serious question how the US should still be in charge of the much of the internet infrastructure like the root DNS, or how US can continue to claim as the model example for free-speaking democracy.”

Site owners like Fung are most concerned about the rationale behind the US domain seizures. Torrent-Finder.com, similar in function to Fung’s Isohunt, was targeted simply because they ended up on the MPAA and RIAA lists of “notorious markets” of copyright infringing material.

“For RIAA, MPAA’s slandering of us as rogue websites, it’s political PR and lobbying that has no basis in reality and ignorable,” Fung says. “Perhaps they should be educated in the many non-infringing uses of BitTorrent and P2P, or they risk listing every social media and sharing website as rogue.” Unless something changes for the better, Fung will be keeping his .HK domain in case his site is one of the next to be targeted by US government raids. And he’ll be joined by many others in that regard. Yes, site owners are leaving the United States in favor of China because they’ll have more freedom and less chance of persecution. How incredibly unbelievable and sad.
Seen any torrent trackers heading to Switzerland, Assange? What the heck he's doing mucking about in the likes of Switzerland flat out befuddles me. Take a hint from the pros, Assange, and hie thee to Montenegro if you want to escape this American dragnet:
Whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks has moved its website to Switzerland as it struggled to remain open in the face of official and corporate moves to cut its access to the internet. And there was speculation that an arrest of the site's founder Julian Assange might be imminent, after Swedish authorities refiled an international warrant with additional information requested by the Metropolitan Police...

The website moved to the Swiss address wikileaks.ch after the American company providing its domain name, EveryDNS.net, cut off service because cyber attacks were threatening the rest of its network. WikiLeaks had turned to EveryDNS and servers in Europe after Amazon stopped hosting the site on Thursday. Meanwhile, reports suggested that authorities in Paris were trying to ban French servers from hosting its database of leaked information.
It's interesting times for America's cyber-foes. Things will become doubly interesting if and when the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) becomes law Stateside. Undoubtedly, the US remains the 500-pound gorilla in cyberspace.