Super Bowl super bust: US seizes 307 websites; grabs $4.8M in fake NFL merchandise

The piracy, counterfeit and copyright battle has moved to the Super Bowl.

ICE counterfeit bust
The piracy, counterfeit and copyright battle has moved to the Super Bowl. 

Speaking a National Football League press conference ahead of this weekend's Super Bowl the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said special agents this week seized a total of 307 websites and snatched up 42,692 items of phony Super Bowl-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit items for a total take of more than $4.8 million - up from $3.72 million last year.

Sixteen of the sites the agency shut down during this operation known as Fake Sweep, were illegally streaming live sporting telecasts over the Internet, including NFL games. Two hundred ninety-one website domain names were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise, ICE stated.

More on high-tech crime: From Anonymous to Hackerazzi: The year in security mischief-making

Ice noted too that Yonjo Quiroa was arrested and charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright related to his operation of websites that illegally streamed live sporting event telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet. Quiroa operated nine of the 16 streaming websites that were seized, and ICE says he operated them from his home in Michigan.

ICE said  Operation Fake Sweep is the 10th phase of Operation In Our Sites, a sustained law enforcement initiative targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. The 307 websites are in the process of being seized by law enforcement, and will soon be in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will then find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime, ICE stated. .

Counterfeit merchandise seized included fake jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other football  souvenirs.  During this operation, an additional 22,570 items of counterfeit merchandise and clothing representing other sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League were seized by law enforcement. In total, this operation netted 65,262 counterfeit items worth $6.4 million, ICE stated.

Other hot news: A quick look: The Megaupload Kim Dotcom hullabaloo

The ICE operation comes on the heels of the US Department of Justice Megaupload.com takedown it charged seven people and two corporations with running what it called an international organized criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works.  The DoJ stated that through the company known as Megaupload.com and other related sites, the group has generated more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright holders more than half a billion dollars.

In response to that action, the hactivist group Anonymous took down the Justice.gov site and many others.

The moves also coincide with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) regulation battle going on in congress.

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