Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Operation in Our Sites II Press Conference
Washington, D.C. ~ Monday, November 29, 2021
Good morning, and thank you all for being here.
Today I’m joined by two of the key leaders in the U.S. government’s work to combat intellectual property crimes – John Morton, the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Ron Machen, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
We are pleased to announce an important step in our ongoing efforts to protect the interests and safety of consumers, to ensure the strength of our markets, and to safeguard the intellectual property rights of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Over the past few days, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, the Department of Homeland Security and nine U.S. Attorneys’ Offices from across the country obtained and executed seizure orders against 82 domain names of websites engaged in the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and illegal copyrighted works.
This coordinated law enforcement effort – known as “Operation In Our Sites II” – targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses, and illegal copies of DVDs, music and software.
During the course of this operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases from a variety of online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. For items confirmed as counterfeit or infringing, seizure orders for the domain names of the websites that sold these goods were obtained from U.S. Magistrate Judges.
As of today – what is known as “Cyber Monday” and billed as the busiest online shopping day of the year – anyone attempting to access one of these websites using its domain name will no longer be able to make a purchase. Instead, these online shoppers will find a banner notifying them that the website’s domain name has been seized by federal authorities.
With today’s seizures, we are disrupting the sale of thousands of counterfeit items. We are cutting off funds to those looking to profit from the sale of illegal goods and exploit the ingenuity of others. And, as the holiday shopping season gets underway, we are also reminding consumers to exercise caution when looking for deals and discounts online. To put it simply: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The Justice Department’s commitment to IP enforcement has never been stronger. This work is a top priority. And through the leadership of the Department’s Criminal Division and our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices – and with the help of ICE, the FBI, and many other agency and law enforcement partners – we will continue our efforts to protect intellectual property rights and to disrupt markets for counterfeit or infringing goods.
For far too long, the theft of innovative ideas or sale of counterfeit, defective, and dangerous goods has been perceived as “business as usual.” 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.
Make no mistake: Intellectual property crimes are not victimless, and they are not risk-free.
Today’s domain name seizures build on number of critical steps we have taken recently to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights.
During “Operation in Our Sites I” over the summer, authorities executed seizure warrants against the domain names of several websites offering illegal copies of first-run movies. This past February, I reestablished the Department’s Intellectual Property Task Force, which is strengthening our efforts to investigate and prosecute IP crimes. And just last month, I traveled to Hong Kong and Beijing to meet with our law enforcement counterparts from China and around the world to ask them to do more to fight these crimes.
Through the Task Force and other initiatives, we have improved coordination with our partners in federal law enforcement. In particular, I would like to note the great work being done through the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which is led by our colleagues in ICE and brings together investigators and analysts from a number of federal agencies.
Without these partnerships, today’s success would not have been possible.
I am especially grateful for the contributions of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, as well as our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the District of Columbia, the Southern District of New York, the Middle District of Florida, the District of Colorado, the Southern District of Texas, the Central District of California, the Northern District of Ohio, the District of New Jersey, and the Western District of Washington.
Everyone who has contributed to today’s operation – the many agents, investigators, attorneys, and support staff – has worked long hours to protect consumers and intellectual property rights. Thank you all for your outstanding work.
And although today’s progress is an important step forward, we cannot be satisfied. And we must not become complacent.
Our fight to combat intellectual property crime continues. In the critical days ahead, I encourage consumers to be vigilant and to share tips and concerns with us. And I urge all of our law enforcement partners to keep up the great work.
With your help, I believe we can turn the page on a problem that threatens consumer safety and our nation’s economic security.
Thank you all. And, now, I’d like to turn things over to Director [John] Morton.