Feds Have Seized 1,700 Web Domains in Three Years over Copyright Claims

Using same asset seizure rules applied to other illegal activities


Federal authorities said today that, since June 2010, they have seized more than 1,700 domains that allegedly breached intellectual property rights.

Seized under a program known as "Operation in Our Sites," the domains hosted material the authorities said illegally streamed sporting events; hawked counterfeit drugs, clothes, and accessories like handbags; and unlawfully allowed the downloading of copyrighted movies and music.

The figures were buried in the White House's 2013 "Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement," (.pdf) and they represent about 50 seizures a month following the operation's adoption three years ago.

Under the program, implemented by the nation's first and only IP czar Victoria Espinel, federal authorities are taking .com, .org, and .net domains under the same civil-seizure law the government invokes to seize brick-and-mortar drug houses, bank accounts, and other property tied to alleged illegal activity. The feds are able to seize the domains because VeriSign — which controls the .net and .com names, and the Public Interest Registry, which runs .org — are U.S.-based organizations. Under U.S. civil forfeiture laws, the person losing the property has to prove that the items were not used to commit crimes.