U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton today announced operation "In Our Sites v. 2.0," a sweeping intellectual property enforcement initiative targeting some of the websites trafficking in online music theft.
Seizure orders have been executed against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0, as part of an ongoing investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers," said ICE Director John Morton. "The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when counterfeit goods are trafficked."
The coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.
During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. In many instances, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. If the goods were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from U.S. magistrate judges. Individuals attempting to access the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.
"By seizing these domain names, we have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items, while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs. The Justice Department, with the help of our law enforcement partners, is changing the perception that these crimes are risk-free with enforcement actions like the one announced today."
The operation builds upon Operation in Our Sites I, which was announced in June 2010. In that first action of this broader law enforcement initiative, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies.
Below is a comment from Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
"Federal law enforcement authorities have now hung a ?closed for business? sign on some of the most notorious music websites that were havens for copyright theft. No anti-piracy initiative is a silver bullet, but targeted government enforcement against the worst of the worst rogue sites sends a strong message that illegally trafficking in creative works carries real consequences and won?t be tolerated. This also makes clear that a priority of this Administration is protecting American jobs and property rights. On this day shortly after we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, the Obama Administration, led by Director Morton, Attorney General Holder and a team of prosecutors, have given the music community much to be thankful for.
"This initiative demonstrates that federal prosecutors can deploy the government?s legal tools with careful and calibrated discretion. Just as in the physical world, prosecutors and courts know how to assess evidence and distinguish between legitimate businesses and those that flout the law. To those who may question this initiative -- who seemingly prefer chaos on the Internet to the rule of law -- I urge you to come forward with viable and effective mechanisms to contain the theft that is not only wrong, but devastating to America's artists and creative industries. The answer simply can't be 'do nothing.'"