US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 11/28/2011 | 37 comments

Sara Peters
It's Cyber Monday, that magical day when thrifty holiday shoppers can get the same sort of outrageous discounts that visitors to brick-and-mortar stores get on Black Friday.

Today, while shoppers have been snatching goodies off the virtual shelves, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has been snatching retail Web domains right off the Internet.

As part of a program called Operation In Our Sites, ICE's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR), the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized 150 Website domain names that were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise.

That's quite a haul. At this time last year, Operation In Our Sites shut down only 82 domains. (Since its launch in June 2010, the IPR has seized 350 domain names.)

To identify the offending sites, undercover federal law enforcement agents purchased products from suspicious domains. Then, as the ICE press release says, "If the trademark holders confirmed that the purchased products were counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from federal magistrate judges."

The full list of 150 seized domains can be found here. Although the number of sites is rather large, the variety of counterfeited trademarks is quite small. The lion's share of the sites were selling sports jerseys with counterfeit NFL, NHL, and MLB trademarks. Others sold knockoff Louis Vuitton handbags, Puma and Reebok sneakers, and the Enterprise Efficiency community's favorite, Ugg boots.

Actually, we don't think the E2 community is full of boot-lovers drooling over cheap Uggs... but someone certainly does. We don't get a lot of spam on our E2 message boards, but when we do, it's almost always spam that tries to sell discount Ugg boots. The good news is that Operation In Our Sites seized some sites selling counterfeit Uggs. The bad news is that none of those sites were the ones our diligent E2 spammers use.

Visitors to the seized domains are now redirected to seizedservers.com, which states the domain has been seized and warns the user of the legal perils of copyright infringement.

The good news is that this operation helps retailers fight copyright infringement and piracy. The bad news is that your site might be put on the seized server list. It's unlikely, but this year, ICE seized two Spanish domains that had previously been declared legal by the Spanish government. The two sites were sports-related, and though they didn't host any illegal content, they did link to other sites that offered unauthorized streaming of games.

Although the Spanish government had said the sites were operating legally, ICE took the position that it has authority over all .com domain names, regardless of where the owner is based, due to the location of the .com registry.

So tell us, retail CIOs, do you think this operation has helped your business, or is it just a tiny drop in the bucket? Have you reported any sites that illegally sell your merchandise or counterfeit versions of it? Do you truly harbor a desperate desire for Ugg boots?

To report IP theft, head to IPRCenter.gov.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Joe Stanganelli   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   12/12/2011 5:02:55 PM
Re: What's with the Ugg Boots?
Again, it's a volume business, apparently.

It's the same reason 419 scams still work.  Yes, the vast majority of Internet users know better, but there are enough in the world who don't to continue lining the pockets of Internet bad guys.
Henrisha   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   12/11/2011 11:10:29 AM
Re: What's with the Ugg Boots?
I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and see a lot of these spammy comments. I wonder why in the world the people who hire these spam commenters would think that their tactics would work. Backlinks, yes. But actual clicks? I know some people would still go ahead and do so, but I'd like to think that the majority of Internet users have already wisened up to such tactics and would refrain from doing so.
CMTucker   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   12/7/2011 9:29:12 AM
Re: Good news
@Sara, I have contacted him and am waiting a reply. I will put you in touch with him as soon as I can!
Taimoor Zubair   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 1:13:43 PM
Re: Good news
I think it could become a serious issue if the US government is taking down the domains belonging to companies originating from other countries. As David mentioned, the intellectual property rights are not the same everywhere in the world. As far as I have seen, counterfeiting in China is not even considered an offense.
Sara Peters   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 9:39:43 AM
Re: Good news
@DavidWagner  Good question Dave. Other than the small kerfuffle a few months ago over the Spanish Website I mention in the blog, I don't know of any retaliation or complaint. I'll keep my eyes peeled for any. My guess is that the spammers just calmly buy yet another domain and conduct operations from there.
Sara Peters   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 9:36:52 AM
Re: What's with the Ugg Boots?
@Rowan @tinym  Wow. Maybe we're all in the wrong line of work! It does beg the question: where's the line between marketing and spamming?
Joe Stanganelli   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 12:51:57 AM
Re: Black Hat SEO
Indeed, I see posts from these DeusM sites pop up pretty quickly on Google -- usually the same day.
tinym   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 12:49:49 AM
Re: Black Hat SEO
You're probably right. They must know the comments will be diligently deleted on larger sites like E2. However fleeting, it must be good for them to gain more backlinks. E2 is probably indexed daily.
David Wagner   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/30/2011 12:37:41 AM
Re: Good news
@Sara- Have any governments threatened any retalliation for the US doing this? Not all countries have equal respect for intellectual property law. Does the US cutting off what they perceive as legal commerce create any problem going forward?
Joe Stanganelli   US Government Celebrates Cyber Monday by Seizing 150 Domain Names   11/29/2011 10:57:09 PM
Re: What's with the Ugg Boots?
The least they could do is try to make the ad comments relate to the post in some small yet meaningful way.  Usually, though, it's something like, "OMG, that reminds me of blah blah blah" which is really phony.

It's clearly a volume business.
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