The United States has launched a major initiative to combat copyright infringement on the internet, seizing dozens of website domains accused of trafficking in counterfeit goods and illegal file sharing.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security was recently authorized to seize the domains of several torrent and download sites linked to copyright infringement by sharing illegal copies of music, videos and software, as well as the domains of several sites selling counterfeit merchandise by authority of warrants issued by a United States District Court Judge. The warrants came after a Senate committee unanimously approved a controversial proposal earlier this month that would allow the government to shut down web sites accused of aiding piracy and copyright infringement. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) allows a web site’s domain to be seized if it “has no demonstratable, commercially significant purpose or use other than offering or providing access to unauthorized copies of copyrighted works”.
Some of the popular domains seized include torrent-finder.com, dvdcollects.com, handbagcom.com, dvdprostore.com, nfljerseysupply.com and 2009jerseys.com. When visitors now view these sites, they are greeted by a message from Homeland Security informing them the domain has been seized (as seen above) due to copyright infringement.
Despite knowing they are violating others’ copyrights and trademarks, some site owners seem rather surprised by the actions of the federal government. “My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!” said a shocked owner of torrent-finder.com. But actions against infringing domains is nothing new. In October, a United States District Court judge issued an injunction in a copyright litigation case against limewire.com, a well known file sharing site, after a judge held that the site committed copyright infringement, engaged in unfair competition, and induced copyright infringement, despite their copyright lawyers’ arguments to the contrary.
In addition to the latest actions of the United States government, a Swedish appeals court this month upheld a copyright conviction against the founders of piratebay.com, one of the most popular and notorious file-sharing sites on the internet. The Pirate Bay founders argued that the Pirate Bay doesn’t engage in illegal activity, that it’s merely a search tool that can be used for illegal or illegal actions, dependent upon the actions of the users. However, the Swedish Court disagreed, and the founders of piratebay.com were fined $46 million kronors (about $7 million U.S. dollars), and sentenced to 10 months in jail. A Swedish copyright lawyer prosecuting the Pirate Bay case stated that “in two years, this type of piracy will be over.” There is no news if the owners of the Pirate Bay plan to appeal the copyright infringement decision.