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Feds Crack Down on Rogue Shopping Websites

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It’s hard to imagine that someone looking online for designer handbags would actually be hoodwinked into making a transaction, let alone visiting, a website called But the less web savvy among us can rest a little easier this shopping season knowing the Feds have shut down that domain and over 100 other sketchy-sounding sites just in time for Cyber Monday.  

In what the blog TorrentFreak called “the largest round of domain name seizures yet,” under the "Operation in Our Sites" umbrella, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement division (ICE) have nabbed 130 rogue commercial websites suspected of selling and distributing counterfeit and copyrighted goods. Either ICE has stepped up its game or close to double the number of counterfeiters are going online since last year, only 82 such seizure orders were executed.

“The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers," said ICE Director John Morton after 2010’s crackdown. "The protection of intellectual property is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when counterfeit goods are trafficked."

Some critics, however, see this virtual raid as an extension of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which gives the government free reign to blacklist websites presumed to be hosting pirated material -- and without due process. As Mike Schuster pointed out, visible opponents of the bill include former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as well as Facebook, AOL, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo, eBay, LinkedIn, and Zynga.

As members of the Business Software Alliance, Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, on the other hand, are advocates of the measure.

While at least two domains targeted in the current ICE round-up, and, were dabbling in digital piracy, the vast majority, like and, dealt in counterfeit clothing and textiles products. Now the sites feature a big fat government banner, complete with badges and bordered with police-like tape, alerting the user it’s been seized.

Of course, for those Americans who have no bones about slipping a pair of cheap knock-off Ugg boots under the tree for an unsuspecting loved one this holiday, may no longer be an option, but there will always be Canal Street.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.