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On the first day of a major federal crackdown on movie piracy, United States officials seized the domain names of nine websites offering illegal movie downloads. The new initiative, “Operation in Our Sites,” is a collaboration between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service (ICE), and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York meant to address the problems of Internet counterfeiting and piracy. Officials also seized numerous bank and investment accounts and executed search warrants in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.
The Assistant Secretary of ICE recognized that the online nature of these offenses makes them difficult to stop. For example, officials seized domain names, but not the computers running the sites, so those same computers could be used under a different name. Some of the sites are also run from other countries, making enforcement even more difficult. Officials, however, are committed to sustaining the effort to stop the hundreds of websites engaged in movie piracy. Officials working on the initiative think it is important because copyright infringement means lost money, which leads to lost jobs. The seized websites combined had approximately 6.7 million visitors each month.
Under federal law, willful infringers who infringe for financial gain or who make an infringing copy of a movie in the theaters, but not yet for sale to the public but available on a computer network accessible to the public, are subject to criminal penalties. Penalties include both fines and jail time. My advice to the people running these websites — be careful. According to one U.S. Attorney on the case, “If your business model is movie piracy, your story will not have a happy ending.”
– Kate Kliebert
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