Ur Place

February 20, 2008

Information will be free: Wikileaks still up, despte order.

Filed under: Lajme --- News — halfevil @ 7:11 pm

Swiss banks have always taken their privacy seriously, and the Bank Julius Baer is no exception. On Friday, the bank obtained a US temporary restraining order against the site Wikileaks, which currently hosts a clutch of documents alleged to come from inside the bank. In addition, the judge issued a permanent injunction against Dynadot, the registrar for wikileaks.org, demanding that the site’s information be locked and its domain name scoured from the Internet.

Bank Julius Baer calls itself the “leading dedicated wealth manager in Switzerland,” and it’s not good for dedicated wealth managers to be linked with scandal. The bank was unhappy about material hosted on Wikileaks that appears to show corruption in the bank’s Cayman Islands branch. It filed a federal lawsuit against the site in San Francisco and has so far been on a roll in the case.

Julius Baer is no fan
of Wikileaks

On February 15, the bank obtained a permanent injunction against Dynadot that requires the registrar to “lock the wikileaks.org domain name” and to “disable the wikileaks.org domain name and account to prevent access to and any changes from being made to the domain name and account information.” Wikileaks.org does not currently resolve.

The order isn’t particularly effective (the site can be accessed simply by going to wikileaks.be, wikileaks.de, and wikileaks.cx, among others), but the fact that it can happen seems incredible. Rather than just put a hold on the particular documents in question, a judge has attempted instead to remove the entire site from the Internet. Wikileaks was not present at the hearing where the decision was made, saying that it was notified only by e-mail and given just a few hours’ notice. As is common in such situations, the order was essentially written by the bank and then adopted by the judge.

In addition to the Dynadot block, Wikileaks itself is ordered to remove all documents from the bank that “are internal non-public company documents” and to do so “whether or not such documents and information are authentic, semi-altered, semi-fraudulent or forged.”

Based on the correspondence between Wikileaks and a US lawyer representing the bank, the bank appears to be claiming copyright over these internal documents. A lawyer for the bank complained repeatedly about the lack of a designated DMCA agent for Wikileaks and warned the site, “You act at your own peril” and “govern yourselves accordingly.” (Biggest question raised by the letter: real lawyers actually write this sort of stage villain stuff?)

The restraining order against Wikileaks is temporary, and in the order Judge Jeffrey White notes that the group can fight the block during a February 29 hearing. Wikileaks says that it has several lawyers in San Francisco willing to work pro bono on the case.


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