Things just keep getting worse for media pirates. In the last year, we've seen Google tackle music blogs, Limewire go the way of the dodo, and Pirate Bay's appeal thwarted. Now the U.S. government is getting involved. Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized domains from Torrent-Finder, OnSmash.com, RapGodfathers.com, Dajaz.com and many others.
The shutdowns spread across a number of sites known to sell counterfeit clothing and DVDs, and was done through an operation that ICE has dubbed "Cyber Monday Crackdown," despite the fact that the crackdowns began last week. According to an ICE press release from yesterday, the approach is pretty simple:
The coordinated federal law enforcement operation targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel and sunglasses, as well as illegal copies of copyrighted DVD boxed sets, music and software.
You might notice a few discrepancies in the full list. While the majority of the websites seized were dealing in counterfeit goods -- as noted in the press release, and for which the reasoning is obvious -- several of this sites dealt with MP3s, including RapGodfathers, a well-known source for mixtapes from up-and-comer rappers (including Drake, at one point), which didn't actually host its own files, but instead linked to off-server hosting services.
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More curious is Torrent-Finder, which was just a search engine and did not host any files, instead linking to other sites, similar to Google. It remains to be seen what implications this will have on file sharing -- and, more important, what intent ICE may have for future maneuvers.
While MP3 blogs and hosting sites have had difficulty gaining much long-term traction, torrent services and other file trafficking sites have remained untouched by ICE or the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center until now.