The big game is on Sunday, so what better time for the Federal government to start seizing sports-related domains left and right under charges of illegal streaming and sale of unauthorized merchandise? This has actually been going on for a while now, but today marks the largest seizure to date: 307 sites in total, 16 of which were allegedly doing the streaming thing, the rest allegedly handling the unauthorized merchandise part.
The seizures are an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) joint, part of a project called Operation in Our Sites. The storm of takedowns utilizes civil-seizure laws used to seize physical assets when they’re suspected to be tied to illegal activities. Because .net, .org, and .com domains are controlled by the U.S. orginizations VeriSign (.net and .com) and the Public Interest Registry (.org) they’re subject to these seizure laws which require the parties who own the seized assets to prove their stuff wasn’t involved in illegal activity to escape seizure. Yeah, it’s a little shifty. Especially in cyberspace.
When ICE takes down these sites, they leave behind a handy little warning message, letting visitors know that the site they were going to has been a bad boy and accordingly seized. So far, these messages are reported to have been view around 77 million times. ICE director John Morton made a preachy little football-themed statement on the takedowns, saying:
“While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans. In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional. It’s the law.”
I imagine being in the ICE offices the day after the big game won’t be very much fun. “Man, that bogus call in the second quarter totally undermined our ability to achieve a different type of victory and defeat the interational counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of these events. Pass interference? Yeah right.”
- There may be a movie about the Madden curse
- MegaUpload has been seized too, of course
- The Pirate Bay just recently changed domains to avoid this