U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) celebrates Valentines Day by seizing domain names it accuses of selling counterfeit goods. Campaign is the fourth phase of the ongoing “Operation in Our Sites.”
Yesterday was Valentines Day as many of you know, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division celebrated the occasion by seizing domain names it accuses of selling counterfeit goods.
This operation dubbed, “Operation Broken Hearted,” was the fourth phase of the ongoing “Operation in Our Sites” aimed at counterfeiting and piracy online.
The first was last July , in which 9 sites were the seized. The second was this past November whereby another 82 were seized. The third was just a few weeks ago before the super bowl and ICE added 10 more to the growing list of domain names seized.
This time ICE focused solely on sites selling counterfeit goods. During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of goods that included bracelets, earrings, handbags, necklaces, rings, sunglasses, wallets and watches.
“Even on Valentine’s day, American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates,” said ICE Director John Morton. “These counterfeits represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy, and sometimes dangerous, goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities and by denying Americans good-paying jobs. HSI and our partners at the IPR Center will continue to work together to keep counterfeit products off our streets.”
The websites seized in “Operation Broken Hearted” are:
The seizures occur in the context of the proposed controversial Combating Online Infringements Act which would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” for cracking down on websites that illegally make copyrighted material available, including the ability to “prevent the importation into the United States of goods and services offered by an Internet site dedicated to infringing activities.”
The US Chamber of Commerce has been among the vocal proponents of the legislation despite the fact that it intrudes on the sovereignty of other countries. During the last phase, for example, ICE seized Rojadirecta.org despite that site having already ruled legal in that country.
“A very long judicial process (more than 3 years) where have worked the Spanish police, the Spanish Attorney General’s Office and the Spanish justice, ALL of them defending or deciding the legality of the site,” read a message on the site.
The Chamber of Commerce is unconcerned with such trivialities like national sovereignty, and wants to expand US jurisdiction via the COICA.
“ICE is doing fantastic work, but their jurisdiction is limited to the United States,” says Steve Tepp, its senior director for Internet counterfeiting and piracy. “We need legislation to provide enhanced remedies to cut off foreign rogue sites from the U.S. market, where they threaten consumers and steal our jobs.”
That may be case, and even that’s debatable, but seizing foreign-based sites with no ties to the US opens up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities in which other countries could reasonably argue for the seizure of US-based sites in violation of their laws.
Would we allow Iran to seize The New York Times for blasphemy or Thailand to seize YouTube for insulting that country’s king? Hardly, and so it’s pretty amazing to think the US would think its perfectly ok to have a double-standard in place.