Holder Announces Crackdown of Websites Purveying Counterfeit Goods

Attorney General Eric Holder, Photo: justice.gov

Just in time for Cyber Monday, as millions of Americans are expected to make holiday purchases with the click of a mouse, Attorney General Eric Holder announced stepped-up efforts to shut down sites selling counterfeit products.

Working with the Justice Department’s criminal division, the Department of Homeland Security and nine U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country, Holder said 82 sites — hawking everything from sports equipment, shoes and handbags, to illegal copies of movies and music – were shut down.

Holder’s announcement, part of efforts known as “In Our Sites II,” came at a news conference in Washington, D.C. He was joined by Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen.

In his speech, Holder repudiated the idea that intellectual property crimes are essentially victimless.

“For far too long, the theft of innovative ideas or sale of counterfeit, defective and dangerous goods has been perceived as ‘business as usual,’” he said. “Not anymore. IP crimes threaten economic opportunities and financial stability. They destroy jobs. They suppress innovation. And they can jeopardize the health and safety of the men and women we are sworn to protect.”

Holder added that intellectual property law enforcement remains a “top priority” for DOJ.

The latest announcement follows a series of moves by Holder to beef up efforts to combat intellectual property crimes.

During the first part of the “Operation In Our Sites” campaign, which was launched over the summer, Holder said authorities used “seizure warrants” to close down sites offering bootleg copies of movies. And, in February, Holder re-established DOJ’s Intellectual Property Task Force.

The Obama administration has made intellectual property rights “a priority,” reports Main Justice, a news and analysis website covering DOJ. A number of large companies, such as Microsoft and NBC Universal and a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers also support more robust IP enforcement, the site reports.

Noted cyber expert Melissa Hathaway, who led President Barack Obama’s 60-day cybersecurity review in 2009, found that the United States lost an estimated $1 trillion in intellectual property crime in 2008.

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