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ICE Domain Seizures A Pointless Exercise

ICE Domain Seizures A Pointless Exercise

A number of the sites selling counterfeit goods already reappear as does the BitTorrent tracker search engine torrent-finder. Govt plan is doomed to fail as sites will simply re-register under a top-level domain outside the US govt’s jurisdiction.

Last last week the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, executed more than 70 court-ordered warrants against sites accused of offering counterfeit goods or copyright infringing material, and already a number of them have returned, this time beyond the grasp of the US govt.

When it comes to foreign sites the US govt can only seize the domain name pointers of domains under its jurisdiction. This

“What gives the US ‘jurisdiction’ is that it’s nominally controlled by VeriSign and thence ICANN, which is a US quango, so owners of .com domains are in a legal relationship with a US entity,” notes an unnamed source. “Outside the US, people have been known to get quite worked up about this arrangement, and there have been serious suggestions that ICANN should cede control (or transfer directly) to a UN body. Whether interference as in this case is legal in international law is, as far as I know, untested.”

If the US continues to seize the domain name pointers of foreign sites, especially those considered legal in their respective country, that may very well change. The cyberlocker RapidShare comes to mind. A German appeals court already ruled the site isn’t liable for user uploads, but the US could very well argue that it is a facilitator of copyright infringement, and therefore convince a US court that it needs to seize the domain name. If this were to happen then it’s likely the international community would more aggressively push for the US to cede control of ICANN to a neutral body, and put an end to its .com meddling ways.

Imagine if Iran or China had seized the domain names of Google, Twitter, or Faecbook because they help “facilitate” social unrest?

The seizures, the troubling, have been an exercise in futility from the start.

“That’s a lot of staff attorney time and trouble to get a big fat nothing out of it, which is exactly what they get going down this road,” observes Karl Denninger of Gizmodo. “Why?  Because all they can do is redirect the domain pointers which will do exactly nothing when the sites re-register under a top-level domain not under the US Government’s jurisdiction – and there are lots of them.”

The seizure of the domain name pointers for the latter site is what troubled most because it never hosted any copyrighted material and only acted as a search engine much like Google or Bing.

“So, when is the US Government going to seize the Google domain?” asks the Inquistr.

When will Google be asked to start filtering its results and will it decide to relocate to a country outside the US’s jurisdiction if asked to do so? If opted to wind down its China operations rather than filter its results as requested by the authoritarian regime.

The controversial Combating Online Counterfeit and Infringement Act would give the Department of Justice an “expedited process” seizing domain names, but the result would be just as futile and constitute far greater harm to the American people than fake NFL jerseys will.

“If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure,” warns a group of 87 prominent engineers who played critical roles in the development of the Internet. “In exchange for this, the bill will introduce censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ ability to communicate.”

Stay tuned.

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