Agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said yesterday that they seized the domain names of 150 websites in an effort to crackdown on the sale of counterfeit and pirated merchandise. The agencies said they planned their effort for Cyber Monday, the first workday after the Thanksgiving holiday, which kicks off the online holiday shopping season each year.
"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," Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a Nov. 28 statement.
The Feds said the sites, which got shoppers’ attention with great deals on brand name merchandise that turned out to be counterfeit, sold various items including golf equipment, sports jerseys and DVDs. Now, when visitors land on those sites, they will see a banner notifying them of the government’s action as well as information about copyright infringement being a federal crime.
"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 said. “And the ramifications can be even greater because the illicit profits made from these types of illegal ventures often fuel other kinds of organized crime."
Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) has 60 days to notify the sites’ owners of the government seizure—time to allow the owners to challenge the action—DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division said nearly all such actions are permanent.