Articles by Jerry Brito

Jerry is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and director of its Technology Policy Program. He also serves as adjunct professor of law at GMU. His web site is jerrybrito.com.


“Selfie” was selected today as the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary’s editors, beating both “twerking” and “bitcoin.” Bitcoin’s company in that word list makes me appreciate the fact that others may be as sick of hearing about Bitcoin as I am about twerking. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty important week for Bitcoin, an I wanted to highlight some of the work I’ve been doing.

Yesterday the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the promises and challenges that virtual currencies hold for consumers and law enforcement respectively. I testified at that hearing and video of my testimony is below. You can also check out the written testimony, which is an updated version of the Bitcoin primer for policymakers I wrote with Andrea Castillo earlier this year. And ahead of the hearing I published an op-ed in The Guardian arguing that if the U.S. doesn’t foster a sane regulatory environment for Bitcoin, entrepreneurs will go to other jurisdictions that do.

All in all the hearing was hearteningly positive. The federal regulators and law enforcement representatives all agreed that Bitcoin is a lawful and legitimate payments system and that it holds great promise. They also agreed that plain old cash and centralized virtual currencies (contra Bitcoin’s decentralized design) are much greater magnets for money laundering, and that they needed no new laws or authority to deal with illegal uses of Bitcoin. I discuss the hearing and its implications on today’s Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown.

Finally, I think there are lots of folks, especially in the wonkosphere, who think they know what Bitcoin is, but really don’t, and so the opinions they offer about its viability or significance are based on misunderstanding. For example, Neil Irwin at Wonkblog today wrote a 700-word post to suggest that what Bitcoin needs is a central bank. Now, if he’s trolling, kudos to him. But I really think he’s innocently ignorant of the fact that Bitcoin’s seminal design feature is that it is a decentralized payments system, and that the moment you add a central banker (which would in any case be impossible) you would no longer have Bitcoin, but Facebook Credits or Microsoft Points or airline miles.

So, if you think you have an inkling about what Bitcoin is, but you’re not too sure, or you don’t know why it’s so significant, please check out my cover story in the December issue of Reason, which was just made available online. Apart from explaining the basics, I go into detail about the little understood fact that Bitcoin is much more than just money. Value transmission is just the most obvious use case for Bitcoin, and thus the one that’s being built out first, but the Bitcoin platform is essentially a decentralized ledger, so it is also able to support property registrations, decentralized futures markets, and much more.

And truly finally, if you want to keep up with all the happenings in Bitcoin, including the Senate Banking Committee hearing later today, check out MostlyBitcoin.com, a site a built for myself but that I hope is useful to others that tracks Bitcoin stories in the mainstream media.

Anupam Chander, Director of the California International Law Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the UC Davis School of Law, discusses his recent paper with co-author Uyen P. Lee titled The Free Speech Foundations of Cyberlaw. Chander addresses how the first amendment promotes innovation on the Internet; how limitations to free speech vary between the US and Europe; the role of online intermediaries in promoting and protecting the first amendment; the Communications Decency Act; technology, piracy, and copyright protection; and the tension between privacy and free speech.

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Deep Web Time CoverToday is a bit of a banner day for Bitcoin. It was five years ago today that Bitcoin was first described in a paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. And today the New York Times has finally run a profile of the cryptocurrency in its “paper of record” pages. In addition, TIME’s cover story this week is about the “deep web” and how Tor and Bitcoin facilitate it.

The fact is that Bitcoin is inching its way into the mainstream. Indeed, the NYT’s headline is “Bitcoin Pursues the Mainstream,” and this month’s issue of WIRED includes an article titled, “Bitcoin’s Radical Days Are Over. Here’s How to Take It Mainstream.

The radicals, however, are not taking this sitting down. Also today, Cody Wilson and Unsystem have launched a crowdfunding campaign to build an anonymizing wallet. In their explanatory video, they criticize the Bitcoin Foundation as “helping the United States” regulate Bitcon, presumably to hasten its mainstream adoption. “Their mission is a performance to both agree with, and maintain an independence from, regulatory power,” Wilson says. “But you can’t have it both ways.”

This is an internecine battle that I’ve observed in the Bitcoin community for years. That of the cypherpunks who see Bitcoin as an escape hatch from state control versus the entrepreneurs who are more interested in the network’s disruptive (and thus profitable) potential. While it might be a fool’s errand, I’d like to make the case that not only is the work of the two groups not in conflict, they actually benefit from each other.

I’ve been following Bitcoin since early 2011, and in April of that year I penned the first (yes) mainstream article about Bitcoin. It was in TIME.com, and it’s been credited with kicking off the first bubble. Since then my work has focused on the regulatory policy around Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, especially looking to educate policymakers about the workings and potential benefits of decentralized payments systems. Why am I so interested in this? My reasons are twofold and they track both the entrepreneurial and cypherpunk ideals, and yet I don’t think I’m bipolar.

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Ryan Radia is one of the few people in the world with whom it is a true pleasure to discuss copyright issues. We see eye to eye on almost everything, but there is enough difference in our perspectives to make things interesting. More importantly, Ryan’s only religious fealty is to logic and the economic way of thinking, which makes for reasoned and respectful conversations. So I am delighted that he took the time to conduct one of his patented Radianalysis™ reviews of the issues raised by PiracyData.org. As is very often the case, I agree from top to bottom with what Ryan has laid out, and it has prompted some thoughts that I’d like to share.

What Ryan is addressing in his piece is the question of whether shortening or eliminating release windows would reduce piracy. He concludes that yes, “Hollywood probably could make a dent in piracy if it put every new movie on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon, and Netflix the day of release. Were these lawful options available from the get-go, they’d likely attract some people who would otherwise pirate a hit new film by grabbing a torrent on The Pirate Bay.” That said, Ryan points out quite rightly that “even if Hollywood could better compete with piracy by vastly expanding online options for viewing new release films, this might not be a sound money-making strategy. Each major film studio is owned by a publicly-held corporation that operates for the benefit of its shareholders. In other words, the studios are in the business of earning profits, not maximizing their audiences.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

One thing that caught me off guard when we launched PiracyData.org (but that in retrospect should not have), is that many people interpreted our attempt to create a dataset as a statement that Hollywood is to blame for its own piracy problem. As I’ve explained, I think it’s dumb to blame Hollywood for piracy, and doing so was not what motivated the project. What motivated the project was Hollywood’s claim that private third parties, such as search engines, have an obligation to do everything in their power to reduce piracy, and that companies like Google are not doing “enough” today.

As Ryan points out, the studios could probably curb piracy by changing their business model, but doing so might very well mean taking a cut in revenue. And as he also points out, the studios are not audience maximizers; they are profit maximizers. This is why they are not about to drastically change their business model anytime soon, which is their prerogative and one I understand. But then the question is, how many resources should we expect taxpayers and private third parties to spend to ensure that the studios can maximize their profits?

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Christopher Wolf, director of the law firm Hogan Lovells’ Privacy and Information Management group, addresses his new book with co-author Abraham Foxman, Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. To what extent do hateful or mean-spirited Internet users hide behind anonymity? How do we balance the protection of the First Amendment online while addressing the spread of hate speech? Wolf discusses how to define hate speech on the Internet; whether online hate speech leads to real-world violence; how news sites like the Huffington Post and New York Times have dealt with anonymity; lessons we should impart on the next generation of Internet users to discourage hate speech; and cases where anonymity has proved particularly beneficial or valuable.

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Brent SkorupAdam, Eli, and I are very happy to announce that Brent Skorup joined us this week as a research fellow at Mercatus. He will focus on telecommunications, radio spectrum, and media issues, which will help round out our existing portfolio of work on privacy, cybersecurity, intellectual property, Internet governance, and innovation policy.

Brent has written Mercatus research papers on federal spectrum policy, cronyism in the technology sector, and antitrust standards in the tech economy. Brent also has a forthcoming paper co-authored with Thomas Hazlett on the lessons of LightSquared. His work has appeared in several law reviews, The Hill, US News & World Report, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, and San Francisco Chronicle. He also blogs here at Tech Liberation.

With the ongoing debate at the federal level over how to efficiently use radio spectrum, Brent has proposed establishing a congressional commission to determine spectrum allocation for federal users and put up newly available spectrum for auction. He has also called for having an agency similar to the General Services Administration take ownership of federal spectrum and “rent” it to agencies at a fair market value.

Brent previously served as director of operations and research for the Information Economy Project at the George Mason University School of Law, applying law and economics to telecommunications policy. He has a BA in economics from Wheaton College and received his JD at Mason.

The launch of our new site PiracyData.org has predictably stirred up a good debate and I thought I’d chime in with a couple of thoughts. First I’d like to address the assertion by some, including Jeff Eisenach and Daniel Castro, that the point we’re trying to make with our site is that piracy is justified when content is not available legally. Here is Eisenach:

The Mercatus site is headlined by the following question: “Do people turn to piracy when the movies they want to watch are not available legally?” The implication is that piracy of movies that aren’t being offered legally is OK, or at least less bad, than piracy of movies that are currently available.

In both my post announcing the site and the Washington Post article Eisenach links to, as well as other articles about the site, I make it clear that there is no excuse for piracy. Piracy is illegal and wrong and copyright holders should be able to exercise their exclusive rights as they see fit during the term of copyright. I don’t know how much more explicit I can be. That said, although piracy is illegal and wrong, it may still be the case that the legal availability of content has an effect on piracy rates. That is a possibility that we are pointing out, not celebrating.

Second, I’d like to address the assertions by Eisenach and Castro that I am advocating that the movie industry should change its business model to collapse the theatrical release window, and that I think doing this will solve the piracy problem. Here again is Eisenach:

If you believe copyright holders have an obligation to make all content available to everyone all the time (as PiracyData.org seems to suggest), at what price would you require them to offer it?

In my post announcing the site I wrote that “their business model is their prerogative, and it’s none of my business to tell them how to operate,” and that’s something I repeated in other articles where I was quoted. So to be clear, I don’t think movie studios have any obligation to do anything. And I certainly don’t think that shortening their release windows would “eliminate piracy,” as Castro said.

Having addressed what I didn’t say, let me reiterate what I did say. The context for the creation of PiracyData.org was the MPAA report arguing that search engines were not taking sufficient voluntary measures to combat piracy. That study was released on the same day that the House held a hearing on “the role of voluntary agreements in U.S. intellectual property system” at which it was also argued that search engines, and Google in particular, have not done enough to combat piracy. The message from the content industry was, to echo Eisenach, that Google has an obligation to take all possible steps to end piracy. It is the nature of this notional obligation that we wanted to probe with PiracyData.org.

Hopefully I’ve been sufficiently clear that we all think that piracy is illegal and wrong and a problem that the content industry is rightfully up in arms about. So the question that we’re really debating is not whether piracy is right or wrong, but how to enforce copyright. How many resources should be expended, and by whom? That’s what this debate it really about.

Over a year ago, Google changed its algorithm to demote sites in its search results based on the number of copyright complaints those sites have received. An algorithmic change is as deep a change in a search engine’s business as one can expect. The message coming from the MPAA report and the House hearing, however, was that Google’s efforts were not enough, and that they should take further voluntary steps to not only remove infringing links from their search results, but also promote to the top legal sources.

PiracyData.org is never going to show all the ways that availability can affect piracy rates, and I’ve been clear about that both in my launch post and in interviews I’ve given, but I think that simply looking at the availability of the most-pirated movies will help shed some light on the simple question of whether people might turn to piracy when there is no legal version available. As the MPAA report noted, the majority of consumers who found themselves at infringing links “did not display an intention of viewing content illegally.” So the question is, why did these consumers who had no illegal intent end up at infringing sites? If they turned to piracy because they could not find a legal version, that would not justify piracy, but I hope we can all agree that it would be good to know whether it might be happening.

So it seems to me that we have identified two contentions of how piracy might be addressed. One is to have search engines voluntarily take more and more steps to change how they present the Web to users in order to address piracy. The other is that movie studios could shrink the theatrical release window. These are not mutually exclusive, and I think we see both happening. Google, as I mentioned, has already changed its algorithm and taken other measures, and as the MPAA has pointed out, the movie studios are working hard to make their movies available when and where consumers want. The question, therefore, is whether these efforts are enough or not, and what is the best way to enforce copyright.

Without a massive investment in enforcement, the sad reality is that piracy rates will never be zero. So what we should debate is whether additional enforcement efforts are worth the cost. As much as we might not want it to be the case, at some point there are diminishing marginal returns to more enforcement. If we determine that more could be done, then then the question is who should make that investment. Should it be search engines or the movies studios who should consider further changing how they do business?

Now, let me say that I am absolutely sympathetic to content owners who are put in incredibly unfair position of having to compete with piracy. As I said before, under the law they have the exclusive right to determine how they will distribute their works, and it is galling that they might feel forced by pirates to adopt a business model against their wishes. That is not fair to content owners. That said, the fact that they are facing this competition from piracy, as unfair and reprehensible as it is, is a fact that can’t be ignored.

In sum, these are the tough questions we should be discussing, not distractions about whether anyone is condoning piracy or whether anyone is blaming the victim, etc. We were hoping that PiracyData.org would spark that discussion, and boy have we had a big return on our investment! Now we need to make sure that we keep this debate on the serious and nuanced questions, and this is often hard to do over tweets and quotes in articles. So we are thinking of holding an event here at George Mason with all points of view represented to discuss these real questions. Stay tuned for details.

Today, we launched PiracyData.org, a site that takes the top ten most pirated movies of the week and mashes them up with data on legal online availability. Our hope is to build an extensive time-series dataset that can help shed light on the relationship between piracy and viewing options.

As might be expected with a new site, we’ve experienced some launch day glitches with the accuracy of our data and our visitors have thankfully pointed these out. We are of course committed to getting it right, so in the spirit of full transparency, we want to explain exactly what has gone wrong and how we plan on fixing it.

First, let me explain in detail how our site works and the exact data sources that we are using. Every hour, PiracyData.org polls the RSS feed for TorrentFreak’s most pirated movies posts. If the new week’s data is not yet in our database, we add it and fetch each movie’s availability from CanIStream.It.

CanIStream.It is a great site, but it is a little difficult for a computer to read. You can’t look up a movie by IMDB ID, which is pretty much the universal identifier for movies. What you can do, however, is pull up a CanIStream.It widget using IMDB ID.

The widget separates availability into four categories: streaming, rental, purchase, and physical DVDs. Given that this is a discussion of online piracy, we are really only interested in the first three categories, but we preserve all four. We scrape the page for movie availability on all of the services that the widget lists.

Making our site this way has presented us with four distinct issues that we only discovered once we started getting user feedback on the site:

1. Movie availability may change throughout the week

This is actually not a problem with our data, but with how it’s interpreted. Because the TorrentFreak data is backward-looking, reporting the most pirated movies in the previous week, we only want to report the online availability of movies as it appeared on Monday. That is, we are intentionally taking a snapshot of Monday availability. If movies become available for rental on Tuesday, we will continue to report throughout the remainder of the week that they were not available to rent on Monday, because that is most likely to reflect the state of the world during the preceding week when the piracy was happening.

A number of people have noted that Pacific Rim is now available for rental. We haven’t been able to confirm for sure, but we believe that it was added for rental at some point after we checked, and therefore this does not appear to be an error on our part. We’d appreciate it if anyone can confirm this because we want to make sure we are getting the right results.

2. Some services are available on CanIStream.It that are not listed in the widget, only on the main site

In particular, The Lone Ranger is available for rental only from a Sony service, but that service is absent in the CanIStream.It widget for not only The Lone Ranger but for all movies. Originally today, our site reported what the CanIStream.It widget reported, that the movie is not available for rental. However, when it was pointed out to us that CanIStream.It’s main site reports that The Lone Ranger is available on Sony, we updated our data to take account of that. We are going to find a way in the future to ensure that all services are automatically included in our dataset, but this means we may have to find another data source or resort to manual entry.

3. In at least one instance, CanIStream.It returned to us data for the wrong movie.

Here’s how the CanIStream.It widgets work: you go to the base url “http://www.canistream.it/external/imdb/” and add the IMDB ID for the movie you are querying. For example, since Pacific Rim’s ID is tt1663662, you can see the widget for the movie at http://www.canistream.it/external/imdb/tt1663662 .

This works perfectly most times, but bizarrely, it doesn’t work for This Is the End, whose IMDB is tt1245492. When you visit http://www.canistream.it/external/imdb/tt1245492 you get the CanIStream.It widget for Jay and Seth Vs. the Apocalypse, not This Is the End. As an outlier, this caught us totally by surprise, and we updated the data on our site to reflect the accurate data from This Is the End. Again, this is the kind of bug we could only have caught once we had lots of eyes on the site and we’re grateful for the feedback.

4. The site is built using the best available data.

TorrentFreak and CanIStream.It offer extremely useful data to the public. While we’ve had some issues incorporating the CanIStream.It data, we are grateful for the data they provide. CanIStream.It’s data is typically seen even among industry insiders as reliable. For instance, MPAA’s site wheretowatch.org directs their users to CanIStream.It as a source.

That said, if we want to build the canonical dataset on this issue, we have to do better. We need to make sure that there are no glitches. We would like to work with anyone with access to availability data to make sure that we can compile the most accurate data possible.

We’re not exactly sure what this entails yet. We may have to get availability data directly from the services themselves. If we can secure the cooperation of the services—for example if they would be willing to supply data on the date that each movie by IMDB number became available on their service—we could even compute availability data historically. TorrentFreak has data on pirated movies going back to 2006.

One thing is for certain: the dataset that we are proposing to build is important. We have provoked quite a reaction from people on both sides of this issue. We acknowledge that it has been a bumpy launch for our site, but we are committed to getting it right. We ask for everybody’s patience and good-faith assistance as we try to get there.

Today, Eli Dourado, Matt Sherman, and I launched PiracyData.org, a very simple site that tries to help answer the question, are the most-pirated movies each week available for legal streaming, digital rental, or digital purchase? We do this by mashing TorrentFreak’s weekly top-ten list of the most pirated movies on BitTorrent with Can I Stream It’s database of movie availability. The result if a single-page website that visualizes the results, as well as a downloadable dataset that will grow each week.

The idea for the site came to me last month when RIAA president Cary Sherman was testifying before Congress at a hearing on what further voluntary steps search engines could take to combat piracy. That same day, the MPAA had released a study that found that users who found themselves at URLs for infringing content had been “influenced” by search engines. This was reported in the press as “search engines lead to piracy.” The gist from the study and Sherman’s testimony was that search engines, and in particular Google, were not doing enough to address the fact that for some searches the top results include links to infringing content, and the implication, of course, is that if Google didn’t take voluntary action, perhaps Congress should require it to.

At the time I blogged an analysis of the MPAA study and noted that, according to the report, 58% of all visits to infringing URLs that were “influenced” by a search engine came from queries for either generic or title-based terms, not from the more-clearly suspicious “domain” terms. As the report remarked, this “indicat[es] that these consumers did not display an intention of viewing content illegally.” As I wrote at the time:

So the question is, why did these consumers who had no illegal intent end up at infringing sites? Could it be that they did not have a legal alternative to accessing the content they were seeking? That would not excuse their behavior, and it’s the movie industry’s prerogative whether and when to make their content available. Indeed release windows are part of its business model, although a business model seemingly in tension with consumer demand as evidenced by the shrinking theatrical release window. That all said, it’s not clear to me why search engines should be in the business of ensuring other industries’s business models remain unchanged.

After I wrote that it occurred to me that we could begin to collect data to answer that question, and so I asked Eli and Matt if they wanted to help me build the site. The initial answer the site is generating seems to be that very few are available legally.

To be clear, we only have three weeks of data so far, and we’ll get a better picture in the months ahead as the dataset grows. Additionally, proving the adage that given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow, we’ve been alerted to the fact that a couple of the movies we were listing as unavailable this week are in fact available. Looking at the problem we found that although we were querying the correct IMDB ID for the movies, Can I Stream It was giving us back the wrong data. We’ve fixed the problem and updated the results. This is all to say that the site will prove its value a year from now when we have a substantial dataset.

That said, one implication of the early results may be that when movies are unavailable, illegal sources are the most relevant search results, so search engines like Google are just telling it like it is. That is their job, after all.

Also, while there is no way to draw causality between the fact that these movies are not available legally and that they are the most pirated, it does highlight that while the MPAA is asking Google to take voluntary action to change search results, it may well be within the movie studio’s power to change those results by taking voluntary action themselves. That is, they could make more movies available online and sooner, perhaps by collapsing the theatrical release window. Now, their business model is their prerogative, and it’s none of my business to tell them how to operate, but by the same token I I don’t see how they can expect search engines and Congress to bend over backwards to protect the business model they choose.

As we continue to debate what are the responsibilities of different actors in the Internet ecosystem related to piracy, we hope PiracyData.org will provide useful context.

As you know doubt have heard, Silk Road has been shut down by the FBI and its alleged operator, Ross Ulbricht, has been arrested. I've been getting a lot of questions about this and what it means for Bitcoin. Here are some initial thoughts.

The price of Bitcoin is dropping. What does that mean? It means that speculators are speculating. That said, here's how I'm going to read it: If the main value of Bitcoin is that it can be used to buy drugs on Silk Road (as some contend), then we should see the value drop to zero is short order. If Bitcoin has other value, we should see it weather this jolt. One year ago a Bitcoin traded for about $14. As I type this, it's hovering at about $118 $127.

How did they catch the guy? Good question. I don't know the answer, but that won't stop me from speculating. I will point out two things. First is this from the criminal complaint against Ross Ulbricht:

During the course of this investigation, the FBI has located a number of computer servers, both in the United States and in multiple foreign countries, associated with the operation of Silk Road. In particular, the FBI has located in a certain foreign country the server used to host Silk Road's website (the "Silk Road Web Server"). Pursuant to a mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request, an image of the Silk Road Web Server was made on or about July 23, 2013, and produced thereafter to the FBI.

OK. So how did the FBI "locate" the servers that hosted the Silk Road Tor hidden service? The FBI has recently admitted that they have exploited vulnerabilities in Tor to identify users. Could it be that they exploited some vulnerability in this case? I look forward to finding out.

That said, here is another possibility. Also according to the criminal complaint (emphasis added),

On or about July 10, 2013, [Customs and Border Patrol] intercepted a package from the mail inbound from Canada as part of a routine border search. The package was found to contain nine counterfeit identity documents. Each of the counterfeit identification documents was in a different name yet all contained a photograph of the same person.

That person was Ulbricht and the package was addressed to him. Maybe it was from this lead that the FBI was able to begin the process of identifying the servers, once they had a suspect. If so, and if this indeed was a "routine" search, then the authorities got completely lucky!

Finally, I'll point out that Bitcoin was in no way involved in the identification of the suspect. In fact, in the criminal complaint the FBI argues that because the blockchain (Bitcoin's public ledger) is pseudonymous, that it is not useful in tracing transactions. I don't think that's quite right, but that's how the FBI sees it in this case. So, in this case at least, the privacy Bitcoin affords was not compromised in any way.

UPDATE: As I think about this some more, it's clear that the FBI was able to identify Ross Ulbricht because he posted his Gmail address to the Bitcoin Talk forum using the same username that first mentioned Silk Road ever. So, what are the chances that the CPB search that turned up the package of fake IDs bound for Ulbricht was routine? If it was routine, it was routine in the sense that packages to people on a watchlist might be routinely searched. I'm still not clear how the FBI got from identifying a possible suspect to locating the server for the Silk Road Tor hidden service.

How do you seize Bitcoins? I'm surprised by how many times I've been asked this question. It's amazing what it is that people seize upon in a story. < cough > I don't know how the authorities have carried out the seizure, but it's not to difficult to conceive how it could be done. Basically they would have to get the private keys to the suspect's Bitcoin addresses. (Think of it essentially like getting the password to an account.) They could either get that with his cooperation or if he had stored it somewhere now accessible to the authorities. Once they have the private keys, they would be able to transfer the bitcoins and I imagine that they would transfer them to a Bitcoin address that only they control.

UPDATE: So I got ahold of the seizure order and indeed I was correct that this is how the government will try to go about seizing the bitcoins. From the court order:

The United States is further authorized to seize any and all Bitcoins contained in wallet files residing on Silk Road servers, including those servers enumerate in the caption of this Complaint, pending the outcome of this civil proceeding, by transffering the full account balance in each Silk Road wallet to a public Bitcoin address controlled by the United States.

But to be clear, to seize bitcoins you do need to get the "password" that controls them. You can't just go to an intermediary and order that an account be frozen as you can do with traditional financial intermediaries like banks or PayPal.

I'll be tweeting and posting more as I learn more about what happened, but those are my initial thoughts. Shoot me any questions or thoughts you have. I'm at @jerrybrito on Twitter. And by the way, you can follow all the coverage of the Silk Road arrest and seizure on my site Mostly Bitcoin.