In a landmark case, a judge in USA has allowed the seizure of nearly 700 domain names selling Chanel products, enforced the transfer all the domain names to GoDaddy with a redirection to a notice about seizure, and Google have been asked to “de-index” the sites.
All the sites were allegedly selling counterfeit Chanel goods, but there appears to have been little regard for the international nature of the sites, and in fact some are not registered in the USA and therefore require the international domain registrars to comply with a US ruling. This would appear to be slightly shaky ground, but is proceeding nonetheless, seemingly as an extension of the American “Operation in our Sites“.
The Operation should cause some cause for concern for anyone legitimately dealing in branded goods, as well as for those re-using content where the copyright holders are American. A few instances have come to light of genuine bloggers and sites who were operating with full permission of the rights’ holders but are now embroiled in trying to recover their domains.
One has to question the wisdom of this level of action, as surely it will just push counterfeiters away from .com and .net domains and register their domains in other countries, as well as using less SEO and more social media to avoid simple detection?
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is due to come in in the USA to try to further prevent such actions such as selling of counterfeit goods and illegal use of intellectual property. However, there is considerable opposition to SOPA, deemed to be censorship, and a threat to free speech.
For anyone selling online or sharing non-original content, the moves being made to close down sites, seize domain names, and prevent search engines indexing specific sites can only be a concern, as undoubtedly the actions taken by those enforcing such laws will also mop up entirely innocent sites in their trawls across the Internet, and not just those based in or accessible by US citizens.
Will this affect your company or product set or content in any way? Let us know your thoughts.