Phony Ugg boots and Louis Vuitton bags are among goods...

Phony Ugg boots and Louis Vuitton bags are among goods on display at the Justice Department yesterday as evidence in the seizure of domain names selling bogus merchandise. (Nov. 29, 2010) Credit: AP

U.S. law enforcement officials said Monday they had shut down 82 websites selling thousands of counterfeit and pirated goods in a move timed with the start of the online holiday shopping season.

"As of today - what is known as 'Cyber Monday' and billed as the busiest online shopping day of the year - anyone attempting to access one of these websites using its domain name will no longer be able to make a purchase," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters.

The coordinated law enforcement effort, known as "Operation In Our Sites II," targeted online retailers of a diverse array of counterfeit goods, including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses, and illegal copies of DVDs, music and software, Holder said.

Visitors to the websites will see a banner saying the domain name has been seized by federal law enforcement officials and warning that dealing in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first-time offenders of up to 10 years in jail and a $2 million fine.

The term Cyber Monday was coined five years ago for the day many people return to work after Thanksgiving Day and make online gift purchases on their computers.

The list of shuttered websites reflects the huge volume of fake and pirated goods easily available on the Internet. It included 2009jerseys.com, boxset4less.com, cheapscarfshop.com, and massnike.com among many others.

About 80 percent of the counterfeit goods that U.S. customs officials seize each year come from China.

"The sale of counterfeit U.S. brands on the Internet steals the creative work of others, costs our economy jobs and revenue and can threaten the health and safety of American consumers," John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.

In the United States, companies that rely on copyrights, patents and other forms of intellectual property rights protection employ over 18 million people and account for more than $5 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates current global trade in counterfeit goods at more than $200 billion a year.

During the investigation, federal agents made undercover purchases from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods. If the goods - many of which came from foreign suppliers by means of international express mail - were confirmed to be counterfeit or otherwise illegal, federal agents then obtained a court order to seize the domain name.

"Operation In Our Sites I" was conducted over the summer and targeted illegal copies of first-run movies.

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