Europol announced last week they had seized just 292 domain names in a global operation with 24 other law enforcement bodies across 18 countries including the U.S. government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The domains were involved in the sale of counterfeit goods online.But a day later the ICE announced 100 times that many domains had been seized in the operation. The ICE announced 29,684 domain names were seized as part of Project Transatlantic/ Operation In-Our-Sites V.The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (National IPR Center) continues to work vigilantly to protect the U.S. public from counterfeit products that pose health and safety concerns or have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy. With its industry partners, the National IPR Center initiated a coordinated effort to disrupt the operation of these infringing websites. During this past year and leading up to Cyber Monday, the National IPR Center and its partners used both criminal and civil actions to successfully shutdown websites selling counterfeit goods, significantly bolstering the overall impact of this year’s efforts. The operation demonstrates the great collaboration between industry members and personnel from the National IPR Center, who effectively worked together to combat this ever growing problem. The National IPR Center extends its appreciation to rights holders representing name brand apparel, handbags, shoes, eyewear, cosmetics, consumer electronics, athletic apparel, sporting goods, personal care products, as well as the entertainment industry. All contributed to this operation’s success.This is the fifth year the HSI-led National IPR Center worked with its international partners to target websites selling counterfeit products online culminating on Cyber Monday. Due to the global nature of Internet crime, the National IPR Center partnered with Europol who, through its member countries, seized top-level domains as part of Project Transatlantic/Operation In-Our-Sites V.”Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said National IPR Center Acting Director Bruce Foucart. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”Each year, the market is flooded with counterfeit products being sold at stores, on street corners and online. In this ever changing world, the Internet has facilitated the sale of counterfeit merchandise online and counterfeiters have taken advantage of the Internet to deceive, sell and ship counterfeit products directly to unsuspecting consumers. The most popular counterfeit products seized each year include headphones, sports jerseys, personal care products, shoes, toys, luxury goods, cell phones and electronic accessories, according to the National IPR Center.”The infringement of intellectual property rights is a growing problem in our economies and for millions of producers and consumers. Europol is committed to working with its international partners to crack down on the criminal networks responsible for this illegal activity,” says Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.The HSI-led National IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the National IPR Center uses the expertise of its 23-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the National IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.
In its third operation in 12 months, Europol working with European and US law enforcement agencies has seized hundreds of domain names linked to the sale of counterfeit goods online.The latest operation saw Europol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), together with 25 law enforcement agencies from 19 countries, seize 292 domain names. The latest announcement brings the total to 1,170 domain names seized in the three operations.The 292 domain names seized are part of project ‘In Our Sites (IOS) Transatlantic V’. The operation was coordinated by Europol for its partners (Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom) and the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, DC, for the United States.Since August, Europol and the IPR Center (NIPRCC) have received leads from trademark holders regarding the infringing websites, which were then circulated to law enforcement authorities in the participating countries.The domain names seized are now in the custody of the governments involved in these operations. Visitors typing those domain names into their web browsers will find either a banner that notifies them of the seizure and educates them about the crime of wilful copyright infringement, or the visitors will not be able to access the website anymore. The most popular counterfeit products concerned include the traditional luxury goods but also sportswear, electronics, pharmaceuticals and pirated goods like movies and music.”The infringements of intellectual property rights is a growing problem in our economies and for millions of producers and consumers. Europol is committed to working with its international partners to crack down on the criminal networks responsible for this illegal activity,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.While seizing the websites is only one way of disrupting and hindering the criminals behind the sale of counterfeits on the Internet, law enforcement authorities also now focus increasingly on the ‘follow-the-money’ approach, in line with the EU Action Plan on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.Project IOS is a sustained law enforcement initiative that began to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. The 292 domain names seized under Operation IOS V brings the total number of IOS domain names seized to 1829 since the IOS project began in November 2012.”Working with our international partners on operations like this shows the true global impact of IP crime,” said NIPRCC Acting Director Bruce Foucart. “Counterfeiters take advantage of the holiday season and sell cheap fakes to unsuspecting consumers everywhere. Consumers need to protect themselves, their families, and their personal financial information from the criminal networks operating these bogus sites.”Counterfeit products being sold online not only rip off the consumer and provide shoddy products, but also put their personal financial information at risk. Consumers are encouraged to report counterfeit products and websites selling them, but also encouraged to raise awareness with others because counterfeiting crimes result in many victims. In addition, the crimes can cause revenue and tax losses, unemployment, environmental, health and safety issues for humans and animals, human exploitation and child labour.
Abstract: In the summer of 2010, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security began “Operation In Our Sites,” an enforcement sweep targeted towards websites allegedly dealing in counterfeit goods and copyright-infringing files. The operation targeted the websites by proceeding in rem against their respective domain names. For websites targeted for copyright infringement, ICE Agents used recently-expanded copyright forfeiture remedies passed under the 2008 PRO-IP Act, providing no adversarial hearing prior to the websites being removed, and only a probable cause standard of proof.This Paper examines three specific harms resulting from Operation In Our Sites, and three ways in which the enforcement sweep could be changed to better balance the interests of intellectual property enforcement and free expression. By removing content from the Internet before being fully adjudicated as infringing, the civil forfeiture remedy works a prior restraint of speech. To avoid this, this Paper urges Congress and the courts to institute the same procedural First Amendment protections in place in the area of obscenity to copyright infringement. Secondly, the alleged infringement here appears to be conducted by third parties posting material on the websites. By keeping website owners out of the dispute process, this remedy disrupts the cooperative spirit sought to be instilled by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s inclusion of statutory safe-harbors for online service providers. To reinstate this cooperative spirit, agents should be required to attempt in personam contact against the website owners before proceeding against the websites in rem. Finally, by targeting website domain names instead of actual content servers, Operation In Our Sites has not effectively disrupted the activities of the targeted websites. In fact, many websites have grown in popularity since this enforcement sweep began. Due to the dubious efficacy of targeting domain names, this remedy should be reserved for situations where there exists some other extrinsic reason to believe that the enforcement tactic will work.To download and read this paper by Andrew Sellars in full, go to: