Can a website be snatched up by the United States Government for copyright infringement? It sure can, thanks to programs like Operation in Our Sites. Keep reading to find out more about one of the more Draconian Internet laws in use today.
United States law allows for the civil forfeiture of property involved in various criminal transactions, Including copyright infringement.
One day, you cozy up in front of your computer in anticipation of spending a few hours with your favorite torrent/marketplace site, only to find this message on arrival:
“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.”
No, this isn’t an early April Fools prank. These days, websites associated with copyright infringement can be seized by the United States government, and the Feds have been exercising this authority for awhile.
Operation In Our Sites = ICE Website Seizure Privileges For Feds
Recently, ICE conducted a venture known as Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0. A list of seized the websites can be found here. According to ICE, the targeted domains dealt in a “diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.”
Among the websites seized was well-known Torrent-exchange site, Torrent-Finder.com.
ICE seizure is a serious matter. Not only will your revenue source be cut off, but there is a very real possibility that you will be prosecuted.
How To Stay On The Right Side Of Operation In Our Sites Law
To avoid coming under the scrutiny of ICE, don’t break the law. Don’t know much about online copyright infringement law? Here are some basics:
- Never copy someone else’s work or brand name without receiving their express permission to do so.
- Make copies of software, films, etc., or use the brand name of another entity in a commercial capacity.
- Even if you do not directly provide questionable material, you can still be considered an accessory to the offense and held liable. So, don’t run Torrent websites on U.S. servers even if third-parties provide the content being pirated.
- Willful blindness is no excuse for breaking the law. If a business deal is too good to be true, it’s probably not true. Plenty of people were caught selling phony P90X DVDs and successfully sued by Product Partners. The retailers had every reason to believe that the merchandise was illegal. Before reselling thouse “Louise Vuiton” (as opposed to Louis Vuitton) bags, consider how likely a judge is to believe that you had no idea it wasn’t authentic merchandise.
- You can be held liable for online copyright infringement even if you’re not a U.S. resident. It is highly unlikely that all of the 82 domain names seized under Operation in Our Sites was American-hosted. If you are selling illegal merchandise to Americans, or using domain names or web hosts in the United States, or do anything that creates a sufficient nexus to the United States, you can still be prosecuted here, and your domain name can still be seized by the United States government.
If You Get Busted Under Operation In Our Sites, Shut Up And Contact An Attorney
In the event your domain name is seized under Operation in Our Sites, don’t talk to any law enforcement officials without a lawyer’s consult. You may think you can explain away your situation, but really, the more that you say, the more you help them.
In such an event, you should retain the services of a US attorney skilled in online intellectual property law and Operation in Our Sites logistics. You do have a shot at getting your site back, but you can’t flub a single step of the process.