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Feds seize 130 sites in Cyber Monday crackdown

Bogus handbags no longer threaten the web

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US feds seized control of more than 130 websites last week as part of a crackdown on counterfeit goods ahead of the Christmas shopping rush.

The seizures make up the largest individual haul yet under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's ongoing Operation In Our Sites campaign.

According to online records, 131 domain names had their name servers changed to seizedservers.com last Friday, the so-called Black Friday that signals the start of the US holiday shopping season.

Seizedservers.com is an ICE-owned name server that directs all traffic to a place-holder stating that "This domain name has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations" and warning of the various criminal penalties associated with copyright infringement.

Seized domains in this round primarily relate to the sale of branded goods. They include discount-louisvuitton-handbag.com, dvdsetonline.com and googlenfljerseys.com.

The seizures come a year after the first big ICE crackdown, in which it took control of over 80 domains. The seizedservers.com name server currently hosts 372 domains, according to data compiled by DomainTools.

While many of the newly grabbed addresses are registered to individuals in China, all 131 are in the .com and .net zones, both of which are managed by VeriSign, a US-based company.

ICE has previously stated that all .com domains fall under its jurisdiction, regardless of where the owner is based, due to the location of the registry. VeriSign has said that it cooperates with the seizures when it receives a court order.

The operation caused a stir earlier this year when it nabbed the Spanish sport video-streaming site Rojadirecta.com, which had already being ruled legal by a court in its native country.

The latest wave of take-downs come as the US House considers the Stop Online Piracy Act, a wide-ranging piece of legislation that would force ISPs to filter domain names allegedly used to illegally distribute copyrighted content and counterfeit goods.

While such seizures are controversial, the scale pales in comparison to similar efforts closer to home.

Here in the UK, Nominet last week cooperated with law enforcement to suspend over 2,000 .uk websites on similar grounds, although it did so at the request of police and without a court order.

The organisation is currently working on policy that would formalise the process of suspending domains without court approval, but it would give affected registrants a right of appeal. ®

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