Can a website be snatched by the United States Government for violating copyright regulations? It sure can, thanks to programs like Operation in Our Sites.
United States law allows for the civil forfeiture of property involved in various criminal transactions, Including copyright infringement.
One day, you cozy up to your computer anticipating 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.
Operation In Our Sites = ICE Website Seizure Privileges For Feds
Recently, ICE carried out Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0. A list of seized 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 confiscated sites was well-known Torrent-exchange platform, 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 officials will throw the book at you.
Avoid An Operation In Our Sites Sting
To avoid ICE scrutiny, don’t break the law. Here are some basics:
- Never copy another work or brand name without securing express permission.
- Don’t make copies of software, films, etc., or use the brand name of another entity in a commercial capacity.
- Don’t run torrent websites on U.S. servers, even if third-parties provide the content.
- Willful blindness is no excuse for breaking the law. Before reselling those “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 in the U.S. even if you’re not a U.S. resident. It’s highly unlikely that all 82 domain seized under Operation in Our Sites were American-hosted. If you’re a) selling counterfeit merchandise to Americans, b) using domain names or web hosts in the United States, or c) doing anything that creates a sufficient nexus to the United States, you can be prosecuted here, and the U.S. government can seize your domains.
Busted Under Operation In Our Sites? 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 first consulting with a lawyer. 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.