British website owners targeted by US anti-piracy officials
Foreign websites suspected of breaking US copyrights are being targeted by its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency regardless of whether they are linked to the country.
Erik Barnett, the agency’s assistant deputy director, said that all “.com” or “.net” websites were fair game if they were suspected of involvement in spreading pirated US films, TV or other media.
Although these web addresses are seen as global, their connections are routed through Verisign, an American-based internet infrastructure company, which is enough of a US connection for ICE to act on.
Offending websites could be closed down or their owners prosecuted, Mr Barnett said.
The agency is also targeting sites which indirectly contribute to piracy by providing links to offending websites.
Mr Barnett told The Guardian: “By definition, almost all copyright infringement and trademark violation is transnational. There’s very little purely domestic intellectual property theft
“The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That’s the key.”
The remarks follow the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a British student facing extradition to the US for running TVShack.net, a site which provided links to non-licensed streams of films and TV shows.
Mr O’Dwyer’s family has questioned why US authorities are pursuing a British national with no US connection and whose site used servers based elsewhere.
ICE has been running a year-long campaign, Operation In Our Sites, which has targeted 125 of the most popular unlicensed film, TV and sport websites, including TVShack.