Federal agencies in the US yesterday announced seizure orders against 150 domain names “engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works” as part of an “Operation in Our Sites” manoeuvre.
“Through this operation we are aggressively targeting those who are selling counterfeit goods for their own personal gain while costing our economy much-needed revenue and jobs,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Intellectual property crimes harm businesses and consumers alike, threatening economic opportunity and financial stability, and today we have sent a clear message that the Department will remain ever vigilant in protecting the public’s economic welfare and public safety through robust intellectual property enforcement.”
The domains are now in “the custody of the federal government” and visitors to the affected sites will be faced with a banner advising them of the seizure and reminding them that wilful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
During the operation, law enforcement agents made purchases from the sites across a variety of trademarked goods including DVD sets, sunglasses, sportswear, footwear and handbags.
The purchases were then passed to manufacturers to determine whether the goods were fake and the sites shut down if it was found to be selling counterfeit products.
Most of the sites were suppliers operating outside of the US and shipping goods into the country.
“For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers,” said ICE Director John Morton.
“More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realize that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products. And the ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organized crime.”
The operation is to be a sustained initiative which is intended to protect shoppers from buying goods which they believe to be the real thing.
This is the second year that an operation has been timed to coincide with Cyber Monday, as last year 82 websites were seized.
Since its inception, Operation in Our Sites has taken down 350 domains, and more than 77 million surfers have viewed the seizure banner.
116 of the domains have been forfeited to the US government, which allows interested parties the chance to file a petition with a federal court to contest the seizure.
Should no protests be filed, the domain then becomes the property of the US government.
“The sale of counterfeit goods cheats consumers and robs legitimate businesses – both large and small – of the fruits of their hard-earned work,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“We will not tolerate those who seek to profit by abusing the Internet and stealing intellectual property at the expense of authors, artists and inventors. The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively to combat intellectual property crime.”