The Tech Herald

Snatched: ICE seizes domains in infringement roundup (Update)

by Steve Ragan - Nov 29 2010, 22:35

Update:

In a press release ICE said that 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 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."

The release notes that during 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."

Original Article:

ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has seized more than seventy domains, in an ongoing operation against counterfeiting and filesharing. Based on available information, the domains are linked to everything from BitTorrent-related search sites, to domains that specialize in counterfeit merchandise, such as shoes and athletic apparel.

According to statements given to the press from ICE spokespeople, ICE executed court ordered seizure warrants against a number of domains. At the same time, that is all ICE would confirm, as the investigation is ongoing.
 
In June, ICE announced “Operation In Our Sites"”. In the first action carried out as part of the initiative, ICE executed seizure warrants against nine domain that were offering first-run movies, often within hours of their theatrical release. In addition to taking the domains, ICE also seized related PayPal accounts and advertising accounts.

The actual scope of “Operation In Our Sites” is the takedown of anything related to pirated music and movies, along with counterfeit items such as clothing, video games, pharmaceuticals, and computer software. TorrentFreak has an extensive list of domains seized recently, though the list is expected to grow in the coming weeks.

ICE’s actions have led some to speculate that this is what can be expected if the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA) bill is signed into law. In short, COICA will allow the courts to block any website if infringement is central to its operation. [More information on COICA can be seen here.]

Those who support COICA gave assurances that domains wouldn’t be seized without a trial. According to reports, that wasn’t the case for many of the domains on the ICE list.

Torrent-Finder.com, which is a search site for BitTorrent files, said that there was no notice or demands from the government. They simply lost their domain. Torrent-Finder.com, had its DNS altered, and at the time of the change, even the registrar had no idea what was going on. In this case, GoDaddy told Torrent-Finder.com’s owner, that the change came from ICANN.

When you use the search function on Torrent-Finder.com, results are returned using Iframes, no trackers or content is hosted by the domains. It’s simply a search engine, like Google for example. This led Steven Hodson of the Inquisitr to ask when does ICE plans to seize Google? The searches on Torrent-Finder.com will give the same results as those from Google or Bing.

To be fair, Google does remove some of its search results based on DMCA notices. Yet, Torrent-Finder.com was never given that option.

After all the trouble of seizing domains, it would appear the ICE’s efforts are null and void. Several of the domains are back online, with hosting outside of the U.S. and under new domain names.

In related news, the BBC is reporting that the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is looking to work a deal with Nominet, who oversees UK domains, to close domains at will. Nominet, for their part, said the deal was a proposal only and not policy.

A copy of the SOCA proposal is here.

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