132 websites were seized on Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and European officials for allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise. The seizures were timed for “Cyber Monday” because that is the day many online retailers offer great discounts and promotions.
This is the third year in a row that the seizures have taken place; the endeavor, called ICE’s Operation In Our Sites, has now seized a total of 1,630 alleged pirate sites.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit had help from Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania, the United Kingdom and the European Police Office. ICE Director John Morton said:
This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the [Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center]. Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win.
The federal law enforcement officers bought objects undercover such as sports jerseys, DVD players, clothing and jewelry from websites that were suspected of offering counterfeit products. Once the original copyright holders confirmed that the products that were being offered were unauthorized, ICE obtained a court order to seize the websites.
Some members of Congress are worried that Operation In Our Sites violates the due process rights of website owners. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) authored a letter to the Obama Administration last August questioning whether overzealous enforcement was stifling legitimate speech.