Brings total to at least 82 domain names seized so far as part of “Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0.”
After having already seized some 70 domain names over the weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has executed at least a dozen more warrants against sites it accuses of offering counterfeit goods or copyright infringing material.
“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 in a press release. “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 latest 12 were seized as part of what it dubbed a “Cyber Monday” crackdown in its latest effort under the ongoing “Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0,” bringing the total seized so far to 82, much larger than the eight seized this past July in v1.0.
The sites seized run the gamut from sites selling counterfeit goods and products to a BitTorrent tracker search engine – Torrent-finder.com. The seizure of the domain name of the latter is what concerned many because it functions in essentially the same manner as other search engines like Google or Bing. If Torrent-finder can be held accountable for its search results than why can’t Google?
“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.”
Not included on the official list, but seized nonetheless, was TVShack.cc. It’s earlier incarnation, TVShack.net, was seized back in July in “”Operation In Our Sites v1.0.” An unconfirmed rumor suggests that it plans to reemerge as TVSHack.es in the days to come.
When it comes to foreign sites the US govt can only seize the domain name pointers of domains under its jurisdiction. This includes those top-level domains administered by Verisign, and thus ICANN, but it’s this unseemly control over what is intended to be an international body that has led many critics to suggest that the US should cede control to a UN body.
By including BitTorrent tracker or streaming sites on the list ICE has proven that it’s not consumers or American jobs that it’s trying to protect, but rather the selfish interests of entertainment corporations trying to wrest revenue away from other industries in this country where users of the sites currently spend the money they save by not properly renumerating copyright holders for consuming their content.
It’s nothing more than a shell game. Sites like Torrent-finder and TVShack don’t cause a net loss of jobs and revenue and, according to some studies, can actually has a positive effect on legal content consumption.
Aside from obvious free speech concerns, it’s also pointless. A number of the sites seized have already resurfaced; 2009jerseys.com is back as 2009jerseys.net; RapGodfathers.com is back as RapGodFathers.info; NFLJerseySupply.com is back as NFLJerseySupply.net; golfwholesale18.com back as golfwholesale18.net; torrent-finder.com is back as torrent-finder.info.
Moreover, ICE’s claims of protecting American consumers, workers, and businesses with the seizures belie what the Government Accountability Office said earlier this year, namely that the effects of counterfeiting and piracy aren’t as simple as lost sales or profits, that each has a range of effects, some negative, others positive. It cited lost profits and tax revenue as negatives for businesses and govt, but that consumers benefited from increased access and lower costs.
Most important of all, the GAO cited the need for differentiating the effects of counterfeiting and piracy among industries. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are almost always bad for consumers while counterfeit DVDs, jerseys, or handbags are not.
That’s why Nike and Pfizer ought to think twice about teaming up with the RIAA and MPAA to support ICE in this effort along with the controversial Combating Online Counterfeit and Infringement Act which would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” to seize domain names.