Government authorities have turned their ire on over 300 sports-related websites, seizing domains it says facilitated either the sale of knock-off merchandise or illegal streaming.
The seizures, carried out by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), began quietly last October and were announced today just days before the Super Bowl.
“While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement. “In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional. It’s the law.”
In addition to the domains, ICE said it seized over $4.8 million worth of bogus merchandise, including fake NFL jerseys, jackets and other sports paraphernalia.
Domain seizures have become increasingly common, occasionally sparking controversy. In 2010, hip-hop blog Dajaz1 was seized for over a year without due process, leading to an inquiry by US Senator Ron Wyden. Two weeks ago, an elaborate strike by the Justice Department brought down the popular filesharing website Megaupload.