Feds drive censorship in raid to stop sale of counterfeit merchandise

Selling products with fake logos is illegal, but when did ICE get a pass on the First Amendment?

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Federal authorities seized 150 domain names and shut down the retail-sale sites associated with them, on charges they were selling merchandise that was counterfeit, pirated or illegally imported into the U.S.

The sites – with names like reeboksite.com, shopsbag.com, verycheapjerseys.com and officialpumashop.com – were seized Friday by agents of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Saturday, according to ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen.

The raids were part of an ongoing anti-counterfeiting effort by ICE called Operation In Our Sites, under which it took down 82 domains in a "Cyber Monday crackdown" at this time last year according to the blog TorrentFreak, which broke the news Friday.

Last year the focus was on copyright-protected material, principally download sites such as Torrent-Finder that had been accused of helping distributed protected material, as well as several that allowed customers to view media streamed to them but not keep it, according to TorrentFreak.

This year the focus was on sites "illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise," according to an ICE announcement this morning.

The announcement quotes Attorney General Eric Holder as saying counterfeit merchandise – mostly sports jerseys golf equipment, DVDs, handbags, sunglasses and other accessories in this case – costs the U.S. jobs and revenue from the manufacture and sale of legitimate goods.

ICE's timing is consistent with last year – hitting counterfeit sites just before "Cyber Monday," reputed to be the first big online shopping day of the year. Timing the raids for the day Americans are paying the most attention to online retail makes it more likely the public will actually notice an effort to enforce copyright and trademark laws on knockoff merchandise.

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