Regardless of who wins on Super Bowl Sunday, the clear losers have already been established: anybody targeted by an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Super Bowl sting.
In what's become an annual tradition, ICE announced the results of its "Operation Red Zone," Thursday: 313 websites shut down, and 23 individuals arrested, for selling counterfeit NFL merchandise.
ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, protects U.S. security by, among other things, shutting down those who violate U.S. intellectual property. It's behind some of the highest-profile website shutdowns in the world, like Richard O'Dwyer's TV Shack and the infamous Megaupload seizure. In fact, visitors to Megaupload.com today are still greeted with a banner touting ICE's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC).
The organization also has a flair for making its own holidays to mark severe enforcement. In addition to its Operation Red Zone, it celebrates Operation Cyber Monday: Every Monday after Thanksgiving, ICE knocks hundreds of bogus or counterfeiting tech stores offline often arresting those responsible.
But just as innocent websites can be knocked offline by overzealous copyright holders, ICE operations sometimes result in unfair takedowns. On Monday, seven ICE agents reportedly threatened to shut down a San Francisco street vendor who was selling 49ers merchandise, suspending his sales until they learned his operation was actually licensed.
"The Super Bowl is one of the nation's most exciting events," ICE Director John Morton said in a prepared statement. "Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand."
ICE noted that it worked with PayPal and eBay to identify those who profited from online sales of infringing material, seizing more than $66,000 in assets.
Photo via Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Facebook