The Department of Justice used blockbuster shopping event Cyber Monday to announce the blockbuster seizure of 150 websites that had been selling counterfeit goods, the agency announced Monday.
The seizure was a joint operation that united the DoJ with several groups, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations group and the FBI's Washington field office.
“For most, the holidays represent a season of good will and giving, but for these criminals, it’s the season to lure in unsuspecting holiday shoppers,” ICE director John Morton said in a statement about the seizure.
“This is straight crime,” Morton said. “This is people being duped into buying a counterfeit.”
The 150 seized domains are in the custody of the federal government, the DoJ said. Visitors to the sites will now find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
The DoJ did not disclose a list of the domain names or sites that had been seized. But Reuters identified several, including www.pumaoutlets.net, www.myjerseyshop.com, www.uggbootsclearanceoutletstores.com.
“More and more Americans are doing their holiday shopping online, and they may not realize that purchasing counterfeit goods results in American jobs lost, American business profits stolen and American consumers receiving substandard products,” Morton added.
Authorities were able to seize the websites, but face difficulties prosecuting their overseas administrators and owners who are predominately in China, Reuters reported.
This operation is the eighth phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeit and piracy on the Internet, the DoJ said. This is the second year that a phase of Operation In Our Sites has coincided with Cyber Monday. In November 2010, 82 websites were seized during the Cyber Monday-related operation.
Since the operation’s June 2010 launch, the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) -- which the DoJ described as a key weapon in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy -- has seized a total of 350 domain names, and the seizure banner has received more than 77 million individual views.
Of the 350 domain names seized, 116 have now been forfeited to the U.S. government.