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Seized Web sites won't end up like drug dealers' cars

U.S. law enforcement plan to use domain names that once belonged to alleged counterfeiters and pirates to spread their message to the public.

Screen shot of a public service announcement that visitors to seized Web sites will be redirected to.
Screen shot by Greg Sandoval/CNET

When the government seizes a dope dealer's car, it can put the auto up for auction. But what happens when agents seize a Web domain?

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) said today that those sites seized for trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods will now serve to help spread the government's message that "unfairly devalue America's contributions, compromise American jobs, and put consumers, families, and communities at risk."

The Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have declared war on online piracy and law enforcement agencies have seized more than 100 sites in the past year. Of those, 65 domain names now direct visitors to a public service announcement.

ICE Director John Morton Greg Sandoval/CNET

For example, visitors to, a domain seized in November 2009, will now be redirected to an announcement on ICE's YouTube page. According to ICE, plenty of people are seeing these messages.

"There have been over 45 million hits to the seizure banner that notifies visitors that a federal court order has been issued for the domain," ICE said in a press release.

ICE is one of the agencies that has been tasked with taking down sites accused of illegally distributing intellectual property. The agency said, however, that before it can start using the seized Web sites for its own purposes, it must give interested parties time to contest the forfeiture.

Interested parties can file a petition with a federal court, ICE said in its statement.

More to come