WikiLeaks, an “uncensorable” site that specializes in
distributing sensitive document leaks and analyses, lost control of its primary
WikiLeaks.org domain after a swift legal attack from Bank Julius Baer.
According to a WikiLeaks
report hosted on one of the site’s many mirrors, attorneys representing Bank Julius Baer held a surprise
hearing to force the site’s host, Dynadot, to delete the WikiLeaks.org
domain name and prevent its transfer to another registrar.
The move followed an unsuccessful attempt to get WikiLeaks to
remove hundreds of leaked documents that implicated the bank in money
laundering and tax evasion activities.
According to a posted e-mail transcript, an attorney contacted
WikiLeaks mid-January with a cryptic
request demanding the site’s legal contacts, making no mention of the documents
in question. When WikiLeaks asked the firm that sent the request for further
information, discussions took a confrontational tone. “You have no legal right
to demand advance knowledge of the name of our client and the documents at
issue,” wrote Lavely & Singer attorney Evan Spiegel, “your site promotes,
encourages and facilitates the publication and distribution of stolen,
illegally and/or tortiously obtained corporate records.”
“You act at your own peril. Govern yourselves accordingly,” wrote Spiegel.
Lavely & Singer’s client, and the nature of its request,
was not revealed until a brief phone call on January 22 between Spiegel and WikiLeaks’
pre-ligitation attorney, Julie Turner. Following that, WikiLeaks said it heard
nothing further from Bank Julius Baer or its attorneys, until the surprise ex parte hearing last Friday.
A WikiLeaks press release, crafted hastily “due to time
constraints,” says that it was given only a few hours’ notice of the hearing, and that it
received that notice via e-mail. When Turner showed up at the hearing “in a
personal capacity,” she was asked to leave the court room before proceedings
WikiLeaks said the injunction was written by Bank Julius
Baer’s lawyers and accepted by a California district court judge without additional
Turner said she was surprised at the unusual legal request: “It’s
like saying that Time magazine published one page of sensitive material so [someone can] seize the entire magazine and put a lock on their presses,” she said.
A representative for Bank Julius Baer declined to comment, citing the pending legal proceedings.
Despite the takedown of the site’s flagship domain, and a
coincidental fire that knocked the site’s Swedish mirror – as
well as a number of controversial piracy websites – offline, it remains
accessible under a multitude of aliases, including www.WikiLeaks.cx and www.WikiLeaks.la.