movie-symbol.jpgLos Angeles – Immigration and Customs Enforcement received praise from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for its efforts in successfully seizing Web domains responsible for online copyright theft.  Both the film and music industry have been hit hard by online piracy through torrent sites that allow illegal file-sharing.

The ICE initiative called “Operation In Our Sites” was launched in June 2010 and has been instrumental in combating Internet counterfeiting and piracy.  As part of the initiative, ICE authorities execute seizure warrants against domain names of Web sites that offer first-run movies, often within hours of their theatrical release.  ICE will also seize assets from PayPal, banks, and investment accounts as part of its efforts to stop the copyright theft.

The White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Committee has made online copyright enforcement a top priority, assigning ICE with shutting down Web sites that repeatedly commit copyright piracy.  Online piracy has persisted as a major problem for intellectual property holders because many Internet users aren’t even aware that they are downloading pirated content.  Some of these users do it with knowledge but not realizing the seriousness of the crime.

The infringers are most often pirating movies, music, television shows, and sporting events through live feeds and some believe that those are just a forerunner of Internet crime.  Representatives from the MPAA, SAG, and major film studios stated, “If it is not made clear that this kind of activity is illegal, it has the potential to become the harbinger of even more forms of illegal activity on the Internet.”

Victoria Espinel, Coordinator of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Committee, recommended that Congress stiffen the penalties for online counterfeiting and piracy and made it clear that the online streaming of copyrighted content is a felony.  Additionally, the IP Enforcement Committee asked Congress to give ICE and the Department of Homeland Security wiretap authority to further enforce copyright legislation.