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Koumbit threatened with seizure of servers

posted by dru

March 21, 2008

Koumbit threatened with seizure of servers

Koumbit, which hosts the Dominion and many other sites, including CMAQ, was threatened with seizure of their servers if they didn't turn over their access logs. Full story here. Unofficial translation below.

[From Koumbit:]

[Apologies for the delays in the translation. Note that this translation has not been approved or reviewed by the collective and should not be considered as an official version. Some of the original text is quoted in brackets to clarify. The original version of this press release is available at: http://koumbit.org/fr/node/7757 ]

[Also note that no computer was actually seized, contrary to what appeared in La Presse in page A17 of its Thursday march 20th edition. The online version was corrected.]

Press release, for immediate broadcast

On Tuesday March 18, around 20h00, the Koumbit Network was visited by two inspectors of the arson investigation department ["section des incendies criminels"] accompanied by two police officers and a search warrant. This follows the publication of articles on the Centre des Médias Alternatifs du Québec (CMAQ), a website hosted on Koumbit's servers.

The search warrant authorized the police to seize all computers present in Koumbit's office, even though the servers in question are not physically there.

The warrant also required Koumbit to provide the inspectors with access logs and as much information as possible regarding four articles published on the CMAQ:


Two of those articles have since been unpublished by the CMAQ editorial

Given the risk of seizure of worker's hardware, Koumbit was forced to provide three lines[1] of logs[2] to the inspectors. Koumbit provided the requested information, among other reasons, to avoid the possibility of seizure of all Koumbit's servers and therefore the deactivation of hundreds of sites belonging to users that are in no way related to the CMAQ, even less so to the authors of the aforementionned articles.

It might be legitimate that, in the process of a criminal investigation, police officers require a warrant to obtain information that they consider relevant to the case; but is it acceptable that a judge give the authorisation to seize all the computers and servers of a hosting provider, when only a few web pages are concerned? We think not.

Koumbit believes the warrant as we have been served is problematic. The normal course of justice should not cause "collateral damage" to businesses and organisations strongly dependent on communication tools we provide them, or silence online media like blogs and public forums. Where should those measures stop?

For more information concerning the legal questions ["flou juridique"] surrounding the access to information issues within a criminal investigation, please see this site of the University of Ottawa:



[1] One of the articles targeted by the warrant was in fact a press release from the CMAQ and we have therefore to provide the logs related to that press release.

[2] A ''log'' keeps the history of the events happening on a web site. Log files usually retain the IP address of the visitor, the time of the visit, the page visited and the browser used. See

'''About Koumbit'''

Koumbit is a non-profit organisation which promotes the use of free & open source software by community groups in Quebec, Canada and abroad, and creates a skills and resource pool for progressive-minded autonomous IT workers and design professionals. Koumbit provides web hosting, website creation, graphic design and training services.

'''About the CMAQ'''

The Center for Alternative Media of Quebec (CMAQ) is a physical meeting place and a virtual platform for independent and alternative information. CMAQ is affiliated with the Indymedia network and constitutes an open publishing platform for independent journalists and the local community and constitutes an alternative to mass media. CMAQ is exclusively composed of volunteers and is open to participation from

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