confirmed the seizure of 82 domains as part of "Operation in Our Sites 2." News of the seizures broke over the Thanksgiving weekend, when TorrentFreak first reported that the sites RapGodfathers and Torrent Finder, along with numerous others had been shut down. The offending sites featured a graphic with the federal authority logos, indicating they'd been seized due to copyright infringement.The U.S. Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have
According to the authorities' press statement, "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." Indeed, many of the URLs of the websites in question seemed to point to the sale of knockoff goods, with names like discountscarvesonsale.com and mydreamwatches.com. Calling this a "Cyber Monday crackdown," the seizures seem timed to coincide with the time when shoppers turn to the Web to buy things.
"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 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."
But at least a few of the websites seized were not involved in the sale of counterfeit goods per se. In fact, the site Torrent Finder was a BitTorrent search engine, and the owner Waleed GadElKareem told The New York Times that he was "sure something is wrong" because his site was shut down even though his website "does not even host any torrents or direct-link to them."
As we reported earlier, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act" (COICA) sailed through a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting a week ago. Although Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has vowed to stop the bill from moving forward, it seems as though the actions that the law affords - the ability for the government to shut down websites where it believes a copyright "crime" is occurring - is something that's already underway under the auspices of the ICE.
Joe Mullin from Paid Content observes that the Obama Administration has "treated more intellectual-property violations as criminal rather than civil matters." Mullin points to the upcoming trial of Matthew Crippen who is charged with modding his XBox. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.
As Torrent Freak's Ernesto points out, the seizure of a site that merely provides search engine results about torrent files seems to be a rather chilling move and could have broader implications for sites who link - knowingly or not - to copyrighted materials.