A few weeks ago, the Federal government seized 82 websites allegedly suspected of selling counterfeit goods and engaging in online music piracy. Among the sites that were seized were hip-hop sites, OnSmash.com, and RapGodfathers.com. If you visit either site, there is a Federal Government seizure notice explaining these sites were seized for unlawful intellectual property infringement.
The seized sites have argued they were in compliant with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and do not understand why they were singled out as opposed to other similar sites. But the Attorney General’s Office specifically stated
their undercover agents visited these sites and were able to purchase
counterfeit items or download pirated music and their investigation into
these sites had been ongoing for quite some time.
Feds Power to Seize
Apparently, the Attorney General is able to seize the infringing sites under the government’s Operation In Our Sites v. 2.0. program. The government is able to enact this program under fedral law 18 U.S.C. §§ 981 and 2323,
which specifically allow the Federal government to seize property
involved in illegal activity. Unfortunately for the seized sites,
counterfeiting and intellectual property infringement activity is
illegal and is punishable by federal penalty. Usually the seizure
authority under 18 U.S. C. §§ 981 and 2323
is reserved for pirated and counterfeit items like DVDs, CDs, handbags,
watches and the like. However, the Feds now seem to interpret this
seizure power to include websites that are involved in this type of
Senate Bill 3804, The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Acts
I do find this recent siezure of the above-referenced websites very
puzzling considering there is a Senate Bill currently on the legislative
calendar that will give the Attorney General office the specific power
to seize intellectual property infringing websites based in the U.S. and
the ability to shut down these types of sites if they are based in
foreign territories. The bill is Senate Bill 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeit Acts
and has gained the support of the Attorney General’s Office. But there
has been a lot of opposition to the bill by consumer watchdog groups
that argue the
bill will give the government the authority to censor the Internet. In
addition, Senator Ron Wyden has vowed to block the bill from reaching a
Congressional vote. Maybe the Feds took preemptive action just in case
the bill does not pass Congress.
Whether the Feds actually have the authority to seize these sites,
the message is very clear. The Feds are cracking down on Intellectual
Property infringement, so violators beware.