U.S. customs officials on Monday said that authorities had seized 132 domain names selling counterfeit merchandise, ranging from DVDs to NFL jerseys to auto airbags, as part of a crackdown on Internet piracy tied to Cyber Monday.
John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters that a concern is that counterfeiters are becoming “increasingly sophisticated,” not only with the look of their websites but in the quality of the goods themselves.
“With an increase in online shopping comes an increase in online predators,” Morton said.
Among the domain names seized was a site selling DVDs of “100 Years of Disney,” even though the studio, as Morton noted, was founded 89 years ago.
“You name it, it is being counterfeited at this point,” Morton said. “It is a huge, huge problem.”
This marks the third year that ICE has timed domain name seizures to Cyber Monday, with coordination from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center set up at the Department of Homeland Security. This year, ICE officials teamed with authorities in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Romania and the European Police Office to seize the sites.
In the U.S., the crackdown, part of an ongoing effort called Operation in Our Sites, seized 101 websites and resulted in one arrest, ICE officials said. An additional 31 domain names were seized in Europe, including addresses under .eu and .be. The focus was on trademarked goods, as opposed to sites trafficking in streaming movies and file sharing, Morton said.
Visitors to the sites now will see a message notifying them of the seizure, as well as a warning about willful copyright infringement.
ICE officials also went after PayPal accounts used by the sites, with proceeds in excess of $175,000 being targeted. After sites were identified in undercover purchases, Justice Department officials obtained seizure orders from magistrate judges, according to ICE.
Operation In Our Sites has seized 1,630 domain names since the effort was launched in June 2010.
Of the domain names seized before the latest Cyber Monday push, 684 have been forfeited to the U.S. government. Those who have an interest in seized sites can challenge the notice of seizure in court, and can petition for additional time to contest a forfeiture.
The complete list of sites seized is after the jump: