5 Los Angeles websites seized in national crackdown on pirated goods

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Counterfeit goods are on display during the announcement of the seizure of 82 website domain names — five of which in Los Angeles — during a news conference at the Department of Justice on Nov. 29, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Attorney General Holder spoke about the seizure orders that were given towards commercial online retailers engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods such as sports equipment, shoes, and handbags and copyrighted material such as music, DVDs and software as part of 'Operation: In Our Sites v.2.0'.

Authorities in Los Angeles seized the domain names of five websites suspected of offering illegal downloads of copyrighted movies, music, television programs and computer software, marking the first seizure of its kind carried out in the Central District of California.

The local seizure orders were among those executed nationwide against 82 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Dubbed “Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0,” the effort was the second phase of a national crackdown by the Justice and Homeland Security departments on the distribution of pirated goods over the Internet. The enforcement actions were announced today by Attorney General Eric Holder, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.

The coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a wide 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.

During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. In many instances, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail.

If the goods were confirmed as counterfeit or otherwise illegal, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold the goods were obtained from U.S. magistrate judges.

Individuals attempting to access the websites will now find a banner notifying them that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

The five Internet domain names disabled as the result of the locally issued seizure warrants are torrent-finder.com; RapGodFathers.com; RMX4U.COM; dajaz1.com; and onsmash.com. In addition to seizing the domain names of the websites, in the case of RapGodFathers.com, authorities also seized the website’s server and all of its digital content, making it unique among the 82 websites targeted.

Collectively, the five websites seized locally accounted for more than 185,000 daily page views. Some of the music and movies offered by those sites had not yet been made available for purchase or home viewing by the general public.

The most widely viewed, torrent-finder.com, was ranked among the 5,000 most popular websites in the United States. In late October, this site offered users access to first run movies such as “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” “The Social Network” and “Red.”

“American business, including the entertainment industry, is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a news release. “The activities of intellectual property thieves threaten to burn out America’s economic engine by removing the financial motive for innovation. The illegal distribution of copyrighted material compromises our leading role in the creative and high technology fields.”

The operation builds upon “Operation in Our Sites I,” which was announced in June. During that operation, authorities executed seizure warrants against nine domain names of websites offering pirated copies of first-run movies.

The nationwide operation was spearheaded by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, led by ICE’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations, in coordination with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Nine U.S. Attorneys’ offices also were involved.

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