Tag Archives: usa

US Seizes Another 70 Domains Selling Counterfeit Goods

Another 70 domain names allegedly involved in selling counterfeit merchandise were seized by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).The 70 websites seized are part of Project Copy Cat, an iteration of Operation In Our Sites (IOS), and closely mimicked legitimate websites selling authentic merchandise and duped consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit goods. Many of the websites so closely resembled the legitimate websites that it would be difficult for even the most discerning consumer to tell the difference.The websites are now shut down and their domain names are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them about the federal crime of willful copyright infringement.”This operation targeted criminals making a buck by trying to trick consumers into believing they were buying name brand products from legitimate websites when in fact they were buying counterfeits from illegal but sophisticated imposter sites located overseas,” said ICE Director John Morton. “The imposter sites were simply a fraud from start to finish and served no purpose other than to defraud and dupe unwary shoppers.”A new twist in the websites seized in Project Copy Cat involved the appearance of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. SSL certificates provide authentication for financial information, meaning consumers should be able to trust that they are sending information to the intended server and not to a criminal’s server. Trusted SSL providers should only issue SSL certificates to verified companies that have gone through several identity checks. In addition to providing authentication, SSL certificates also provide encryption, enhancing the security of credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and other sensitive information. These websites, however, displayed SSL certificates, further duping the consumer into thinking they were shopping on a legitimate website, potentially putting customers’ financial information at risk.During this operation, federal law enforcement officers made undercover purchases of a host of products, including baby carriers, professional sports jerseys, language and fitness DVD sets, and a variety of clothing, jewelry and luxury goods from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. In most cases, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries. If the copyright 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.”Every day the U.S. economy and American jobs are negatively impacted by criminal organisations engaged in the sale of counterfeit merchandise through rogue websites. Even more importantly, consumer’s health and safety can be threatened when they unknowingly purchase counterfeit products,” said IPR Center Director Lev Kubiak. “Our goal at the IPR Center is to protect the public’s safety and economic welfare through robust intellectual property enforcement and we hope that today’s enforcement actions raise the public’s awareness to this pervasive crime.”This operation was the next phase of IOS, a sustained law enforcement initiative that began two years ago to protect consumers by targeting the sale of counterfeit merchandise on the Internet. These 70 domain name seizures bring the total number of IOS domain names seized in the last two years to 839. This enforcement action coincides with the two-year anniversary of the 2010 launch of IOS. Since then, the seizure banner has received more than 103 million individual views.Of the 769 previous domain names seized, 229 have now been forfeited to the U.S. government. The federal forfeiture process affords individuals who have an interest in seized domain names a period of time after a “Notice of Seizure” to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after a “Notice of Forfeiture” to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become the property of the U.S. government. Additionally, a public service announcement, launched in April 2011, is linked from the seizure banner on each of the 229 forfeited websites. This video educates the public about the economic impact of counterfeiting.The operation was spearheaded by the IPR Center in coordination with HSI field offices in Denver, El Paso, Houston, Newark and Salt Lake City. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Western District of Texas, Southern District of Texas, District of New Jersey, District of Colorado and the District of Utah issued the warrants for the seizures. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.During the first phase of IOS in 2010, the IPR Center received information from the Motion Picture Association of America that a website, www.ninjavideo.net (Ninja Video), was illegally distributing pirated copies of motion pictures and other audiovisual works. Ninja Video provided its millions of visitors the ability to illegally download high quality copies of copyrighted movies including movies that were currently in theaters or not yet released.Following the seizure of the website, search warrants were executed at the residences of the primary suspects in the United States and funds were seized from 15 separate financial accounts. To date, the Ninja Video investigation has resulted in the arrest and conviction of five of the six co-conspirators with sentences ranging from 22 months in federal prison to three years of probation with a combined restitution exceeding $470,000 to the victims. A sixth co-conspirator remains a fugitive. In addition to Ninja Video, IOS phase one also targeted eight other websites selling counterfeit merchandise in New York.Previous website seizures include:

  • First phase: 9 domain names
  • Second phase: 83 domain names
  • Third phase: 10 domain names
  • Fourth phase: 18 domain names
  • Fifth phase: 5 domain names
  • Sixth phase: 17 domain names
  • Seventh phase: 58 domain names
  • Eight phase: 156 domain names
  • Ninth phase: 10 domain names
  • Tenth phase: 385 domain names
  • Salt Lake City: 7 domain names
  • Sustained Effort: 11 domain names

These cases are part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.

Neustar Kickstarts America’s Interest in .US

Start With DotUS logoNeustar have started a publicity campaign to both alert Americans to and encourage their use of the .US ccTLD.

The campaign wants small business to consider using a .US domain name for their business. Neustar say they spoke to small business, listened to their concerns and the KickStart America Campaign is the result.

As part of the campaign, Neustar have developed a toolkit to assist small business in getting online with help on how to choose a good domain name, information on what to consider on developing a website, and whether the business should do it themselves or hire a professional, and then, once online, how to promote the website and business.

And to help with this “kickstart”, Neustar and .US are also giving away an all-expenses paid trip to Washington DC to attend a national small business conference.

To find out more about the campaign, go to www.about.us.

America Registry logoTo register your .US domain name, check out America Registry here.

US Government Seizes More Domains In Operation In Our Sites

Seven domain names were seized in an operation by US government authorities as well as more than $896,000 in proceeds from the distribution of counterfeit sports apparel as the result of an investigation into the sale of counterfeit goods on commercial websites.The operation, by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the Department of Justice took the number of domain names seized in similar operations to a total of 758 for websites engaged in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works in Operation In Our Sites, the agencies announced Tuesday.The most recent operation also saw the seizure of more than $896,000 in proceeds from the alleged criminal activities from interbank accounts and three PayPal accounts.The investigation by ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is a result of Operation In Our Sites, which targets online commercial intellectual property crime, and began in June 2010. Operation In Our Sites targets online retailers for a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses and DVD boxed sets.”Counterfeiting and intellectual property theft are seriously undermining U.S. business and innovation,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Consumers are at risk, American industry is harmed and U.S. jobs are lost. As a country, we can ill afford the toll that intellectual property theft exacts on our economy and industries. Operation In Our Sites and the related efforts of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center are critical to combating intellectual property crime and consumer fraud over the Internet.”According to court documents, investigation by federal law enforcement officers revealed that several subjects whose domain names had been seized in a November 2010 through Operation In Our Sites continued to sell counterfeit goods using new domain names. In particular, the individuals, based in China, sold counterfeit professional and collegiate sports apparel, primarily counterfeit sports jerseys. Law enforcement officers made numerous undercover purchases from the websites associated with the new domain names. After the goods were confirmed to be counterfeit or infringing, seizure warrants for seven domain names used to sell the goods were obtained from a U.S. magistrate judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.The individuals conducted sales and processed payments for the counterfeit goods using PayPal accounts and then wired their proceeds to bank accounts held at Chinese banks. Pursuant to warrants issued by a U.S. district judge, law enforcement officers seized $826,883 in proceeds that had been transferred from PayPal accounts to various bank accounts in China. The funds were seized from correspondent, or interbank, accounts held by the Chinese banks in the United States. Pursuant to additional seizure warrants issued by a U.S. magistrate judge, law enforcement officers also seized $69,504 in funds remaining in three PayPal accounts used by the subjects.”We are working hard to protect American businesses and consumers from the damaging effects of intellectual property crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “This investigation disrupted an online counterfeit goods operation, and also struck at the heart of the criminal enterprise by seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits. The Justice Department, together with our partners at ICE, will continue to do all that we can to punish and deter the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods.””Those who traffic in counterfeit goods harm the American economy as well as the consumers who purchase the substandard merchandise,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Seizing the domain names of these unscrupulous operators was one big step, and seizing their ill-gotten proceeds should send them another message that these counterfeit sales will not be tolerated.”The investigation was conducted by the IPR Center and HSI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Hooks and Diane Lucas, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Katharine Wagner of the District of Columbia; Senior Trial Attorney Pamela Hicks of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Trial Attorney Thomas Dougherty of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.HSI manages the IPR Center in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 20 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

US Govt Cancels RFP For ICANN’s IANA Contract

The US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has cancelled the Request For Proposal (RFP) into the role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), that being the key technical functions supporting the Domain Name System, because they received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community.In their announcement, while noting no proposals met requirements, the NTIA does not say if they received any bids, even from ICANN. ICANN’s CEO and president, Rod Beckstrom, also refused to comment on if ICANN had submitted a bid at their meeting currently underway in Costa Rica.The Department says they intend to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served.There are some that believe the announcement sends a wake-up call to ICANN that they need to get their house in order. And in particular criticisms have come from those groups that ignored the top level domain consultation process that was ongoing for over five years. These groups such as the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) are now using any available method to lobby the US government to stop the TLD process. And if this means getting their two cents worth of lobbying on unrelated issues to discredit ICANN, then so be it.”This RFP cancellation, announced as ICANN convenes its March 11 – 16, 2012 meeting in Costa Rica, can only be seen as a clear message to ICANN that it must seriously address concerns by NTIA and multiple global stakeholders. These include federal policymakers, the ANA, Internet security experts, the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO) and other stakeholders that have criticized ICANN’s expansion of the domain name system with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of new generic top-level domains,” said Douglas J. Wood, General Counsel to the ANA, and a partner with Reed Smith LLP.However despite the lobbying and browbeating of those such as the ANA, “one of the key sticking points is the NTIA’s demand that the IANA contractor – ICANN – must document that all new gTLD delegations are in ‘the global public interest,” reported Domain Incite.”This demand is a way to prevent another controversy such as the approval of .xxx a year ago, which the Governmental Advisory Committee objected to on the grounds that it was not the ‘the global public interest.'””Coupled with newly strengthened Applicant Guidebook powers for the GAC to object to new gTLD application,” Domain Incite continued, “the IANA language could be described as ‘if the GAC objects, you must reject.'””NTIA’s cancellation is even more telling because ICANN changed its conflict of interest policy subsequent to Thrush’s departure and the issuance of the RFP. Many people believe the changes ICANN made to its conflict of interest policy were entirely inadequate in addressing NTIA’s legitimate concerns,” Wood went on to say in a statement. “With sixteen directors accountable through no independent oversight, their powers are unrestrained and, as recent decisions illustrate, ignore what the stakeholders want or, more importantly, need.”For now, the NTIA has reached an agreement with ICANN to continue performing the IANA functions until 30 September 2012.

US Authorities Seize Another 307 Domain Names In Counterfeit Goods Sweep

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.

Don’t Break the Internet Say Academics

“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

US Prosecutors Request Spanish Domains Seized in Piracy Crackdown Not To Be Returned

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:
www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/07/domain-seizures-defended/

.COM/.NET Registrants Face US Piracy Charges, Even If Local Piracy Laws Not Broken

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:
www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jul/03/us-anti-piracy-extradition-prosecution

White House To Cut Waste Including Halving Number of .GOV Domains

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.

FBI Seizes Domain Names In Online Gambling Crackdown

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:
www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/technology/16poker.html
www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-poker-busts-20110416,0,308055.story
latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/04/full-tilt-poker-fbi.html