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Eben-Seizure Scrooge: "Operation In Our Sites" Strikes Again on Cyber-Monday

By Jen Mecum

For the second year in a row, just in time for the holiday online shopping rush, "Operation In Our Sites" stormed the Internet, executing federal seizure orders against 150 domain names of websites selling and distributing alleged counterfeit goods and copyrighted works illegally.(http://www.forbes.com/sites/billsinger/2011/11/28/bah-humbug-operation-in-our-sites-nabs-150-websites-on-cyber-monday/)

The initiative, spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (http://www.ice.gov/), was launched in June 2010 to combat intellectual property piracy problems cropping up in online stores.

Undercover federal agents made purchases of various products, such as DVDs and sunglasses, that were advertised by their online retailers as bearing bona fide trademarks. The legal trademark and copyright holders were asked to verify the authenticity of such products. If the products did not pass muster, a federal seizure order was executed to essentially freeze the website. All seized websites (http://www.forbes.com/sites/billsinger/2011/11/28/bah-humbug-operation-in-our-sites-nabs-150-websites-on-cyber-monday/) bear a seizure banner and warning that willful copyright infringement is a federal offense.

Though Attorney General Eric Holder claims that the seized websites "are selling counterfeit goods for their own personal gain while costing our economy much-needed revenue and jobs," (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/tag/operation-in-our-sites/) the initiative has been met with much opposition. One critic denounces the initiative as stretching due process "to its breaking point" by shutting down the websites, effectively giving the businesses no way to stay afloat while they defends their rights. (http://www.thewhir.com/blog/David_Snead/113011_Operation_in_our_sites_redux) Another critic argues that ICE is abusing its power to seize physical tools and products by enlarging its power to include seizure of domain names.(http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110521/14304814372/why-operation-our-sites-is-illegal-needs-to-be-fixed-asap.shtml)

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