ICE defends domain seizures; Companies show support

John Morton, director of the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), took to the podium at the annual State of the Net conference on Tuesday to defend the agency’s seizure of 6 domains in June and an additional 82 in November. The following day, Morton and US Attorney General Eric Holder received a letter signed by 40 different corporations, praising the agencies antipiracy efforts and expressing their support for the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).

Morton said that the “Operation In Our Sites” actions were such a success that pirate sites not involved in the seizures willingly shut their own sites down. “In my many years of law enforcement, I have never seen that kind of deterrence come from a single law enforcement action,” he said.

ICE defends domain seizures; Companies show support

“We will follow criminal activity where it occurs including on the Internet,” Morton proclaimed. “We can’t live in a society where the Internet has some protection for criminals. … We are going to stay at it. I am not apologetic on this last point.”

Then Morton said something about the sites in question that caused heads to turn: “They were all knowingly engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods,” He stated. “We’re going to enforce the law. It’s that simple.”

Apparently, Morton has not yet heard from the attorneys for RapGodfathers.com or Torrent-Finder.com. Owners for each of these domains claim that there was no infringing business being conducted at the time the seizures took place. RapGodfathers.com claims to be a DMCA-compliant music blog, while Torrent-Finder.com does not host torrents, but is a search engine used to find them.

The 40+ companies who praised the ICE’s efforts in a letter to Morton and Holder also don’t seem to have heard about the site owners who are fighting back.

“We appreciate the effort and energy behind Operation in Our Sites,” the letter reads. “The actions announced on November 29, 2010 once again demonstrated that, just as in the physical world, prosecutors and courts can judiciously assess evidence and distinguish between legitimate businesses and criminal enterprises that flout the law and profit from the ingenuity of others.”

“We encourage you to work with your colleagues in the Administration and the Congress toward enactment of the principles central to S. 3804 – the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” the letter also states. Among the companies signing the letter are Activision, Viacom, NBC Universal, Voltage Pictures, and Monster Cable Products.

COICA, if you’ll remember, is also known as the “internet blacklist bill”. It would give the US Attorney General the authority to add websites to a blacklist that ISPs would then be forced to block.

If you’re an American citizen, you also have the power to voice your opinions about Operation in Our Sites and COICA by contacting your Senator online. It’s easy and it only takes a few minutes of your time.