A nationwide enforcement operation called Operation Fake Sweep that targeted stores, flea markets and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear throughout the country and also targeted illegal counterfeit imports into the United States, saw hundreds of websites seized that were engaged in counterfeiting and piracy online.
In the operation, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized 307 websites, 16 of which were illegally streaming live sporting telecasts over the internet, including NFL games, while 291 domain names were involved in illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise.
One of those arrested, Yonjo Quiroa from Michigan, was arrested Wednesday by special agents with HSI. He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet. Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and he operated them from his home in until his arrest.
The website seizures during Operation Fake Sweep represent the tenth phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the internet. The 307 websites are in the process of being seized by law enforcement, and will soon be in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will then find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that wilful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
To assist in justifying the seizures, the authorities note that “American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material and produce counterfeit trademarked goods. Criminals are attempting to steal American ideas and products and sell them over the Internet, in flea markets, in legitimate retail outlets and elsewhere. Intellectual property (IP) thieves undermine the U.S. economy and jeopardise public safety. American jobs are being lost, American innovation is being diluted and organised criminal enterprises are profiting from their increasing involvement in IP theft.”
The seizures mostly involved .COM, .NET and .ORG domain names, which were targeted “under the same civil-seizure law the government invokes to seize brick-and-mortar drug houses, bank accounts, and other property tied to alleged illegal activity,” ars technica reports. “The feds are able to seize the domains because Verisign, which controls the .net and .com names, and the Public Interest Registry, which runs .org, are US-based organisations. Under civil forfeiture laws, the person losing the property has to prove that the items were not used to commit crimes.”
However this round of seizures also included Firstrowsports.tv, the first time including a domain name for the .TV ccTLD for Tuvalu, operated by the US-based company Verisign, reports TorrentFreak.
Since the launch of Operation In Our Sites in June 2010, the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) has seized a total of 669 domain names.