The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has apparently been shutting down dozens of websites and seizing control over the respective domain names over the past few days, according to the website Torrent Freak.
The Feds appear to be targeting sites that allegedly help facilitate mass-infringement of U.S. Copyright laws. This includes but is not necessarily limited to sites that allegedly help facilitate the illegal downloading of copyrighted music, and sites that facilitate the sale of counterfeit merchandise such as fake designer handbags and counterfeit NFL fan gear.
Website owners have reported to Torrent Freak that their sites are being shut down without any warning or prior notification. The website owners report learning of the government-seizure by way of a message appearing on the domain names where the sites had been hosted.
The message reads as follows:
“This domain name has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court under the authority of 18 U.S.C. SS 981 and 2323.”
“Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution (17 U.S.C 506, 18 U.S.C 2319). Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is, forfeiture and restitution (18 U.S.C. 2320).”
There is speculation that the seizures are somehow tied to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), a controversial bill being considered by Congress.
An ICE spokesperson confirmed the seizures and released the following statement:
“ICE office of Homeland Security Investigations executed court-ordered seizure warrants against a number of domain names. As this is an ongoing investigation, there are no additional details available at this time.”
Torrent Freak has a list of more than 75 domain names that have apparently been confiscated by the government, the majority of which appear to have been involved in the sale of counterfeit goods.
More on government-seizures of domain names: Eminent Domain Name 1