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.
“Two bills now pending in Congress — the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 (Protect IP) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House — represent the latest legislative attempts to address a serious global problem: large-scale online copyright and trademark infringement,” write Mark Lemley, David S. Levine and David G. Post in the Stanford Law Review.”Although the bills differ in certain respects, they share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet’s extraordinary growth, and for free expression.””To begin with, the bills represent an unprecedented, legally sanctioned assault on the Internet’s critical technical infrastructure. Based upon nothing more than an application by a federal prosecutor alleging that a foreign website is ‘dedicated to infringing activities,’ Protect IP authorizes courts to order all U.S. Internet service providers, domain name registries, domain name registrars, and operators of domain name servers — a category that includes hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and the like — to take steps to prevent the offending site’s domain name from translating to the correct Internet protocol address. These orders can be issued even when the domains in question are located outside of the United States and registered in top-level domains (e.g., .fr, .de, or .jp) whose operators are themselves located outside the United States; indeed, some of the bills’ remedial provisions are directed solely at such domains.”To read this article by Mark Lemley (William H. Neukom Professor at Stanford Law School), David Levine (Assistant Professor at Elon University School of Law) and David Post (Professor at Beasley School of Law, Temple University) in full on the Stanford Law Review website, see www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/dont-break-internet
The fight in courts over the US government’s seizure of gambling-related domain names is continuing with Wired reporting “federal prosecutors are asking a judge not to return the domain names of one of Spain’s most popular websites, seized as part of a major US crackdown on internet piracy.””The legal filing over Rojadirecta.com represents the government’s first legal response to a lawsuit challenging ‘Operation in Our Sites.'”The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized as many as 208 domains the authorities claim are linked to intellectual-property fraud, Wired reports, with the first seizures taking place in 2010. “The court-ordered seizures are aimed at web sites that sell counterfeited goods, as well as sites that facilitate illegal music, film and broadcast piracy.””The Rojadirecta .com and .org domains were seized in January along with eight others connected to broadcasting pirated streams of professional sports.”To read the Wired report in full, see:
Website owners around the world using .COM or .NET domain names could find themselves on piracy charges and even face extradition to the US even if their website does not break any local laws The Guardian reported.The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is targeting websites outside America that they believe are “breaking US copyrights whether or not their servers are based in America or there is another direct US link, said Erik Barnett, the agency’s assistant deputy director.”The Guardian also reports that “As long as a website’s address ends in .com or .net, if it is implicated in the spread of pirated US-made films, TV or other media it is a legitimate target to be closed down or targeted for prosecution, Barnett said. While these web addresses are traditionally seen as global, all their connections are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.”To read the full article in The Guardian, see:
Vice President Biden has been tasked with the job of cutting waste in their agencies as part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to make government more accountable to the American people.As one of the campaign’s first steps, the Administration will be targeting duplication and waste among federal websites. There are almost 2000 .GOV domain names with websites, and many microsites under these domains, across the Federal Government. With so many separate sites, Americans often do not know where to turn for information. The White House want to put a halt to the creation of any new websites, and will eliminate more than half of the existing sites over the next year.”For too long the federal government has allowed billions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on inefficiencies,” said Vice President Biden. “Over the last two years, we have been slashing waste across government and today we are putting Washington on notice: the President and I are committed to changing the way government works and we are stepping up the hunt for misspent dollars.”Under many of the 2000 domains and microsites are an estimated 24,000 websites of varying purpose, design, navigation, usability, and accessibility.While many government websites each deliver value to the taxpayer through easy-to-use services and information, an overall online landscape of literally thousands of websites – each focusing on a specific topic or organization – can create confusion and inefficiency.In addition to confusing the public, duplicate and unnecessary websites also waste money. And while the costs for some of these websites may be relatively small, as President Obama also said in the video, “No amount of waste is acceptable. Not when it’s your money, not at a time when so many families are already cutting back.”So the federal government will do more with less, improving how it delivers information and services to the public by reducing the number of websites it maintains.As one of the first steps of the Campaign to Cut Waste and as part of an OMB memorandum to improve customer service, we’ve taken three concrete steps:
- Stop the bleeding. Starting right now, there is a freeze on all .gov URL’s. This means no one can get a new one without a written waiver from the federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. Facing this constraint, agencies will focus on their current infrastructure, adding content and functionality to existing websites.
- Map out the current landscape. To understand what’s working, and what isn’t, agencies will need to report on every URL they maintain. In addition, we’re enlisting the oversight of a powerful stakeholder: you. In the next 30 days, a list of all registered .gov domains will be published so that you can pore over them yourself and offer feedback.
- Develop a government-wide policy for websites. While it’s pretty obvious that we don’t need thousands of websites, what we do need is a little trickier. Should there only be one federal website? Is a more practical solution a common set of templates and standards so that sites are better connected to one another and more consistent to the public? A task force will consult with experts from the public and private sector to develop a policy for government websites moving forward. If you’re interested in participating in this process, let us know.
The FBI has seized domain names for online gambling websites in what the New York Times has described as “an aggressive attack on Internet gambling.” The charges against the operators of three of the most popular online poker sites by federal prosecutors include fraud and money laundering and saw eleven people charged.According to the Times, “Prosecutors charged that the operators of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker tricked banks into processing billions of dollars in payments from customers in the United States. They said the actions violated a federal law passed in 2006 that prohibits illegal Internet gambling operations from accepting payments.””The online poker operators sought to avoid detection by banks and legal authorities by funneling payments through fictitious online businesses that purported to sell jewelry, golf balls and other items, according to the indictment. It says that when some banks processed the payments, they were unaware of the real nature of the business, but the site operators also bribed banks into accepting the payments.”Further, “experts in gambling law said that the forceful action raises tricky questions about gambling laws and the government’s reach.”The government also is seeking to recover $3 billion from the companies, reported the Los Angeles Times while two of the eleven people charged were arrested in the US. The remaining defendants are abroad with federal agents seeking the assistance of Interpol to capture the remaining defendants.The Times also reported that “ComScore, a company that measures Internet traffic, said that in March, Full Tilt Poker had 2.6 million visitors from the United States, PokerStars had 1.9 million and Absolute Poker had 1.3 million. ComScore also reported that 1.4 million people visited Ultimate Bet, a site that the federal indictment says joined forces last year with Absolute Poker. Those were the nation’s four most popular poker sites, ComScore said.”The tactics used, that is seizing domain names, are the same as those used last year against websites accused of copyright violations. As the Times notes, the tactic may only be temporarily effective as websites can re-establish themselves using a country code domain, for example, and be out the reach of US law enforcement.For more detailed reports on the domain name seizures from which information for the above story was sourced, see:
The US government is seeking public comment to enhance the performance of the IANA functions in the development and award of a new IANA functions contract.The call comes via a Request for Comments from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Department of Commerce. The NTIA notes “this is the first time NTIA has undertaken a comprehensive review of the IANA functions contract since the award of the first contract in 2000.”The RFC flags some interesting changes to IANA, including the possible break-up of the IANA functions, saying that “in light of technology changes and market developments, should the IANA functions continue to be treated as interdependent?”Other issues considered important are the stability and security of the DNS and whether “the current metrics and reporting requirements sufficient?”The IANA functions have historically included the following:
- The coordination of the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters
- the administration of certain responsibilities associated with Internet DNS root zone management
- the allocation of Internet numbering resources
- other services related to the management of the .ARPA and .INT top-level domains.
ICANN currently performs these IANA roles on behalf of the United States Government through a contract with NTIA. The contract between the US government and ICANN expires on 30 September 2011 so the NTIA is seeking public comment to enhance the performance of the IANA functions in the development and award of a new IANA functions contract.Comments are due on or before March 31, 2011.More information can be found at www.ntia.doc.gov/frnotices/2011/fr_ianafunctionsnoi_02252011.pdf
Abstract: This Article suggests the time is ripe for the United States Supreme Court to interpret the fair use defense of free speech or parody under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”). The ACPA was enacted in 1999 to protect consumers from “cybersquatting,” or when a non-trademark holder registers a domain name of a trademark and attempts to: (1) sell the name either to the holder for a ransom or to the highest bidder; or (2) divert or confuse consumers.Although published decisions from the circuit courts interpreting the ACPA continue to explore the marriage of trademark protection with the First Amendment’s protections of domain names and websites as free speech, a conflicting criteria has emerged regarding when an alleged cybersquatter can successfully assert the fair use defense. For example, the Tenth Circuit’s standard is that it must be immediately apparent to anyone visiting a parodic website that it was not the trademark owner’s website. However, the Fourth Circuit’s criteria is whether the domain name at issue conveys two simultaneous, yet contradictory, messages: that it is the original and that it is not the original and is instead a parody. Such inconsistent criteria has the potential to render an alleged cybersquatter victorious in one circuit, yet liable in another circuit.This Article’s circuit-by-circuit analysis exposes the vast inconsistencies between the circuit courts’ decisions and argues that the United States Supreme Court should, by granting a petition for a writ of certiorari, articulate the standard for the ACPA’s fair use defense based upon free speech or parody.To download and read this research paper in full, see:
The Republicans in the US are working hard to keep the UN’s mitts off internet governance, with Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., reintroducing “a nonbinding resolution calling on President Obama to oppose any efforts by the United Nations to take over governance of the Internet,” reports Tech Daily Dose.”It has become increasingly clear that international governmental organizations, such as the United Nations, have aspirations to become the epicenter of Internet governance. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this never happens,” Bono Mack, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade said in a statement.”Americans have always been skeptical about big government power grabs — and they have a right to be — especially when it impacts their daily lives. Any attempt by the United Nations to take over something that is so central to our economy is deeply troubling and a threat to American consumers. It is bad enough that we have to fight to keep the Federal Communications Commission’s hands off the Internet; just imagine having to convince governments like Iran and China.”The Internet has grown and thrived precisely because it has not been subjected to the suffocating effect of the heavy hand of government. Market-based policies, the free flow of information, and private sector leadership have allowed the Internet to flourish and become the world’s greatest communication platform. I urge the President and his Administration to oppose any effort to transfer control of the Internet to the United Nations or any other international governmental entity.”Bono Mack introduced a similar resolution in the previous congress, reported Tech Daily Dose. In her resolution, Bono Mack notes her concerns about some nations using “the internet as a tool of surveillance to curtail legitimate political discussion and dissent.” However given the recent release of US government cables and other correspondence through WikiLeaks and the ways in which the US has sought to find ways to put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the courts in her country, she could easily have been referring to the US as one country that seeks to “use the internet as a tool of surveillance to curtail legitimate political discussion and dissent.”To see the text of House Resolution 57, see bono.house.gov/UploadedFiles/H._Res._57.pdf
Abstract: The Internet is in transition. The original address space, IPv4, is nearly exhausted; the Internet is in the progress of migrating to the new IPv6 address space.The Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) developed in the late 1970s has the capacity for about 4 billion unique addresses. It would have been hard to imagine in the 1970s that 4 billion addresses were not going to be enough. But by the early 1990s, Internet engineers recognized that the supply of addresses was relatively limited compared to likely demand, and they set to work designing a successor to IPv4. They developed a new Internet Protocol, IPv6, with a vastly increased address space: 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses.Broadband Internet access has become essential to the United States and the rest of the world. The exhaustion of IPv4 addresses and the transition to IPv6 could result in significant, but not insurmountable, problems for broadband Internet services. In the short term, to permit the network to continue to grow, engineers have developed a series of kludges. These kludges include more efficient use of the IPv4 address resource, conservation, and the sharing of IPv4 addresses through the use of Network Address Translation (NAT). While these provide partial mitigation for IPv4 exhaustion, they are not a long-term solution, increase network costs, and merely postpone some of the consequences of address exhaustion without solving the underlying problem. Some of these fixes break end-to-end connectivity, impairing innovation and hampering applications, degrading network performance, and resulting in an inferior version of the Internet. These kludges require capital investment and ongoing operational costs by network service providers, diverting investment from other business objectives. Network operators will be confronted with increased costs to offer potentially inferior service.The short term solutions are necessary because there is not enough time to completely migrate the entire public Internet to “native IPv6” where end users can communicate entirely via IPv6. Network protocol transitions require significant work and investment, and with the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses looming, there is insufficient time to complete the full IPv6 transition.But the short-term solutions are problematic. The “solution to the solution” is to complete the transition to a native IPv6 network. A native IPv6 network will restore end-to-end connectivity with a vastly expanded address space, will improve network performance, and should decrease costs. Completing the transition of the public Internet to IPv6 will take time.To read this FCC article in full, see: