U.S. special agents and officers have seized a total of 307 websites as part of an initiative called "Operation Fake Sweep."
Launched on October 1, the project was led by Homeland Security Investigations within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Most of the sweep ties into a crackdown on illegal NFL-related merchandise leading up to the Super Bowl this Sunday.
As far as the websites go, 16 of them were set up for illegal streaming of the live sportscast, while another 291 domain names were brought down for illegally selling and distributing counterfeit merchandise.
Visitors to these websites are warned that they "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."
Along with the websites, U.S. officials also had their hands full after seizing more than $4.8 million in fake NFL merchandise, such as fake jerseys, hats, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs.
ICE director John Morton explained in a statement:
While most people are focusing on whether the Patriots or Giants will win on Sunday, we at ICE have our sights on a different type of victory: defeating the international counterfeiting rings that illegally profit off of this event, the NFL, its players and sports fans. In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land. Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law.
Immigration and Customs officials asserted that Operation Fake Sweep will continue through weekend at Super Bowl events and venues throughout the Indianapolis-area and nationwide.
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