The US government has seized 131 domains allegedly associated with counterfeiting- and piracy-related websites, reports TorrentFreak.
The action signals that U.S. authorities have resumed “Operation In Our Sites”, a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement that aims to stop online piracy and counterfeit item sales by assuming control of a site’s domain name. The domain seizure strategy is very similar to what both the Protect IP and SOPA pieces of legislation intend to do.
Last year, authorities seized 82 domains on Black Friday, the day following the Thanksgiving holiday and routinely the most profitable of the entire year. The operation is intended to protect both consumers and U.S. companies from illegitimate businesses, but many critics believe the government is simply over stepping its authority and infringing on their civil liberties.
If this were a simple case of the government coming down on shady websites that fooled users into purchasing $99 iPhone 4S knock-offs filled with candy, I doubt many people would care. However, the domain seizures are for plenty of websites that have some gray area when it comes to who is actually responsible for illegal activity. For instance, sites that simply share links to potentially illegal streaming content as well as torrent search sites were among those that had domains seized by the government.
Unlike the previous year’s round of domain seizures, this time authorities seem to have focused primarily on sites that process payments and/or handle money directly. Neither the DOJ or ICE have made an official statement about the seizures at this point. I’d expect they will provide justification closer to Cyber Monday, a day set aside by online retailers for the best deals of the holiday season.