As millions across the planet witnessed a global online protest against two anti-piracy bills before the U.S. Congress, one music website shared with Raw Story its own experience being censored by the government.
OnSmash.com, a popular hip hop blog, was among 82 websites shut down in November 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit without any warnings.
Despite managers, music labels, established artists and rising performers providing music to OnSmash for key promotional purposes, the site received an affidavit alleging it had facilitated copyright infringement. With the seizure of its URL, OnSmash founder Kevin Hofman shortly purchased FreeOnSmash.com as the site's new domain name.
Craig Trainor of The Trainor Law Firm, P.C. represents OnSmash in its fight against the government, told Raw Story that his client was mere "collateral damage in the government's war on piracy."
Calling it a "war that should be fought," Trainor warned that authorities must tread "carefully, because of the substantial First Amendment interests at stake, and because of the murky landscape that is the current state of copyright law."
"We are currently in discussions with the government to have the domain name returned," he said. "Suffice it to say, OnSmash’s domain name never should have been seized. Artists, their managers, and record label marketing departments have consistently embraced OnSmash.com as a critical promotional tool for signed and unsigned artists alike."
Having experienced government censorship first-hand, Trainor said OnSmash is "vehemently" against both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and joined in on Wednesday's global blackout.
"OnSmash agrees that foreign rouge websites that engage in piracy of American intellectual properties or sell counterfeit goods must be combated, but SOPA and PIPA are not the way to do it. In the name of enforcing our laws, we should not lose our identity in the process."
Trainor criticized not only Congress, but also lambasted the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for their role in promoting the bills.
"Neither the RIAA nor the MPAA speak for the rest of America, and these laws will have damaging implications for the First Amendment, the Internet, and the economy," he said.
"The Congress must go back to work, take its time, have congressional hearings with a diverse group of interests (not only credit the bought opinions of former Senators who do the bidding of big Hollywood), and reach a solid solution for combating foreign piracy that does not lay waste to American values, the free-flow of information that is the Internet, or our economy. SOPA and PIPA cannot stand as written."
Photo credit: Flickr user The Come Up Show
The story has been updated from a previous version. OnSmash has never been accused of selling counterfeit goods, nor has it participated in the selling of any goods, counterfeit or otherwise, on their website.