While many sports fans are preparing for Sunday's Super Bowl, the U.S. government has organized "Operation Fake Sweep" to close down a huge number of websites offering pirate TV coverage or fake game merchandise.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) seized 307 different domains suspected of violating NFL copyrights. Of those, 16 websites were accused of illegal streaming while 291 sites were allegedly selling counterfeit NFL merchandise.
The seizure was conducted under U.S. civil law, not criminal law. That means the affected webmasters need to prove that the internet domains were not engaging in illegal activity to get them back — a reverse of the normal "innocent until proven guilty" approach.
Many of the domains were not being operated by U.S. organisations, but because they used U.S. domain suffixes .net, .com, and .org, however, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was empowered to act.
Visitors to any of the seized domains now only see a message from ICE explaining the takedown. According to the government, these messages have already been viewed over 77 million times yesterday alone.
And "big brother" is not restricted to the virtual world either as the operation also includes a nationwide enforcement targeting stores, flea markets and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear throughout the United States.
ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit www.ICE.gov.