WASHINGTON – As the summer months begin in the United States, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is keeping the heat on counterfeiters by seizing domain names of websites used to sell counterfeit goods and illegally distribute copyrighted materials. This operation marks the fifth phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative aimed at counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.
The websites seized during this phase of "Operation In Our Sites" include:
During the course of the operation, ICE HSI agents investigated websites suspected of selling counterfeit goods and illegally distributing copyrighted material in the United States. Once the materials were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold or distributed the items were obtained from federal magistrate judges. Individuals accessing the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.
This nationwide operation was spearheaded by the ICE HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in coordination with U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the Northern District of California, Southern District of Texas, and Western District of Washington and HSI offices in Houston, San Francisco and Seattle.
In June 2010, ICE HSI and the IPR Center began "Operation In Our Sites." Since the launch of this operation, ICE HSI and the IPR Center have seized a total of 125 domain names and redirected those domain names to a seizure banner. Seventy-six of the 125 domain names seized have now been forfeited to the United States government. Through the forfeiture process, individuals who have an interest in the seized domain names are provided a period of time after the "Notice of Seizure" to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after the "Notice of Forfeiture" to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become property of the U.S. government.
Last month, the IPR Center launched a public service announcement (PSA) that appears on each of the 76 forfeited domain names. Since the launch of this PSA on ICE's YouTube page, this video has received nearly 100,000 individual views, educating the public about the economic impact of trademark counterfeiting and copyright infringement. The PSA on forfeited websites is a significant benefit of this enforcement operation in deterring future crimes and in raising awareness.
In December 2010, the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment launched the PSA campaign entitled "Piracy Doesn't Work in NYC," which targets digital piracy. The goal of the campaign is to reinforce to the public that the jobs of New Yorkers who work in and support the creative industries in the city are threatened when digital entertainment such as books, movies and songs are illegally downloaded.
"A significant amount of the creative entertainment that gets produced each year is made in New York City whether it's books, music, films or television shows," said Katherine Oliver, commissioner of New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. "The City is home to nearly 700,000 New Yorkers who make their living either working in or supporting those creative industries so when people illegally download their entertainment, lost revenue from those actions could mean lost jobs in the City."
Intellectual property rights violators unfairly devalue America's contributions, compromise American jobs, and put consumers, families, and communities at risk. They also protect the actor, director, writer, musician, artist, and countless others who labor in and around America's entertainment industry from having a movie, manuscript, song or design illegally sold by someone who had no part in the artistry of creating it. Intellectual property rights are intended to discourage thieves from selling cheap imitations of products that are often far less safe or reliable than the original products. More importantly, intellectual property rights protect public safety by preventing the proliferation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other materials that are potentially harmful.
It is estimated that intellectual property thefts costs American industry billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs every year. Additionally, "Operation In Our Sites" is also targeting counterfeit pharmaceuticals, software, electronics, games and other products that threaten public health and safety.
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center is led by ICE HSI and includes partners from U.S. Customs and Border Protection; FBI; Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Postal Inspection Service; Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration; Patent and Trademark Office; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; Army Criminal Investigative Command, Major Procurement Fraud Unit; General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General; Consumer Product Safety Commission; Defense Logistics Agency, Office of the Inspector General; Air Force Office of Special Investigations; Department of State, Office of International Intellectual Property Enforcement; INTERPOL; Government of Mexico, Tax Administration Service; and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.
To report IP theft, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.