The Virtual Enclosures in Action: Copyright and The Patriot Act

Those of you who know me through my Virtual Enclosures piece will not be surprised by this. Apparently, the Patriot act has been invoked by the FBI to gather evidence in a copyright infringement case. My first reaction is that this is proof that the Patriot Act has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, but rather is aimed at curtailing the civil rights of US citizens.

Read the story for yourself: is one of the most popular fan-run websites among the Stargate community. In addition to providing very active fan discussion forums, broadcast schedules, production news, and episode guides, the site heavily promotes the sale of the show on DVD. As of this writing, direct links from to have resulted in the sale of over $100,000 worth of DVDs. Many more DVDs have been sold to international fans of the show through sites like Upon hearing this news, Stargate executive producer Brad Wright called the site “cool” – which Adam took as an endorsement of his work.

However, instead of thanking Adam for his promotion of their product, officials at MGM and the MPAA have chosen to pressure the FBI into pursuing criminal charges. Adam was first tipped off about the investigation when the FBI raided his and his fiancee’s apartment in May of 2002 and seized thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment. Adam later received a copy of the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, and was shocked to discover that this document, prepared by the FBI, contained significant amounts of erroneous and misleading information. For example, two social security numbers were listed for Adam, one of which is not his. References were made to a cease and desist letter sent by the MPAA to an email address that did not exist. His online friendship with other Stargate fans across the globe was portrayed as an international conspiracy against the MPAA. And perhaps most disturbing of all, it was later revealed that the FBI invoked a provision of the USA Patriot Act to obtain financial records from his ISP. The FBI’s abuse of its powers did not stop there. When they seized Adam’s computer equipment, he was given written documentation stating that it would be returned within 60 days. The equipment that they did return did not arrive until more than 8 months later, and only then after much prodding from his lawyer. Much of it was damaged beyond repair – one laptop had a shattered LCD screen, an empty tape backup drive was ripped apart for no apparent reason, his fiancee’s iBook was badly damaged when it was pried apart with a screwdriver. The FBI’s computer crimes staff is either incompetent (at least when it comes to Macintosh computer equipment) or else they just don’t give a damn.

So here we go. A fan site, that increases the revenue of the show being promoted, is being persecuted.

The logic here is all too clear. In this case, the desire for social control supersedes even profit. This is the virtual enclosures in action.

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