Federal authorities in the U.S. have begun another crackdown of counterfeit and piracy websites. Over100 domain names have been seized by the government. The domains are part of the resurrection of Operation in Our Sites, a domain seizing operation developed to curb online piracy and counterfeit operations.
According to TorrentFreak.com, in 2010 the Department of Justice (DOJ), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began the first wave of domain seizures in the Operation in Our Sites initiative. The recent takeover is the largest to date. There has been no official government statement at this time.
However, last year Attorney General Eric Holder stated, “The theft of ideas and the sale of counterfeit goods threaten economic opportunities and financial stability, suppress innovation and destroy jobs. The Justice Department, with the help of law enforcement partners, is changing the perception that these crimes are risk-free with enforcement actions like the one announced today,” Holder added.
The moves should make internet marketers that use brand names in domain names wary. A common scenario is review sites that focus on one brand name or product and use that brand name in the domain. This allows the marketer to get highly targeted traffic from web searchers looking for information and opinions on that brand name or product.
TorrentFreak.com notes differences between last year’s sweep and this seizure. This year the sites seized were predominately those selling counterfeit clothing, such as 17nflshop.com, and software like autocd.com. Last year the sites were mostly sites allowing illegal movie and music downloads or streaming.
The takeovers follow the recent introduction of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA HR 3261) in the House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011. SOPA would allow government representatives and content owners new leeway to take action against sites believed to be working with pirated and counterfeit material. SOPA is a companion bill to a previously introduced bill known as the PROTECT-IP Act. Opponents of the bill have raised concerns that it would stifle creativity and innovation while supporters stress that the U.S. copyright system should be revitalized and strengthened.
In either case, internet marketers, PPC and affiliate marketers should take care when purchasing domain names, creating landing pages and adword campaigns. The Department of Justice, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are not the only government departments continuing to monitor the internet marketing space. The Federal Trade Commission has primary oversight and continues to revise and strengthen their own rules and regulations.
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