Whoever coined the phrase "crime doesn't pay" obviously had not foreseen the advent of the Internet, as the sale of counterfeit merchandise online has evolved into a very lucrative venture for cybercriminals. In the third year of a concerted effort to crack down on the illicit sales, a coalition of law enforcement agencies from the U.S. and Europe have announced the seizure of more than one-hundred Internet domains on the grounds that the operators where engaged in the sale of bogus name-brand merchandise to unwitting consumers.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) "Project Cyber Monday 3" shut down 101 illegal online sales operations based in the U.S. and executed one arrest , while the European counterpart operation dubbed "Project Transatlantic" conducted under the direction of Europol netted another 31 domain name seizures yesterday, the traditional start of the online holiday buying season.
"This operation is a great example of the tremendous cooperation between ICE and our international partners at the IPR Center. Our partnerships enable us to go after criminals who are duping unsuspecting shoppers all over the world. This is not an American problem, it is a global one and it is a fight we must win," said ICE Director John Morton in an agency press release.
The joint operation was coordinated by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington, D.C. which had numerous received tips from various trademark holders about ongoing copyright infringements.
"Europol became a member of the IPR Center this year and I am glad to be able to announce these operational successes. IPR theft is not a harmless and victimless crime. It can cause serious health and safety risks and it undermines our economy," said Director of Europol Rob Wainwright in the press release.
Visitors to the seized domains are now presented with a law enforcement agency branded banner that explains the seizure and the potential ramifications from willful copyright infringement. The IPR-led operation has seized 1,630 domains since it began in June of 2010, and 684 of the sites have been officially forfeited to the U.S. government after legal proceedings.
The operation has been welcomed enthusiastically by some in the eCommerce sector who recognize that the growth in illegal sales of counterfeited items has a detrimental impact on individual companies and the economy as a whole.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the opportunity to work closely with HSI to shut down criminals targeting our customers and our brand just as the holiday season takes off. PayPal and eBay Inc. pride ourselves in going above and beyond in the fight against the illegal online trafficking of counterfeit goods by partnering with law enforcement and rights owners globally, and we hope that this is fair warning to criminals that the Internet is not a safe place to try and sell fake goods," said vice president and deputy general counsel on Government Relations for eBay Tod Cohen.
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