Feds Can Seize Your Domain

US Federal Feds Can Seize Your DomainThink that just because your cheap hosting site is based in Canada that you won't face the wrath of the US government if you do something you shouldn't on your domain? If your cheap hosting site is up to no good, you might want to pay attention.

The case of Bodog.com, a site to place bets on sports, highlights this issue. Let's take a look at that the law and the case, which occurred in March of last year, to see what the US government is actually capable of in terms of the Internet and domains.

 Feds Can Seize Your Domain: The Law

It's called “Operation Our Sites,” and it has been in place since some time. It was passed into law by the US in order to shut down sites that traffic counterfeit products, or so it did at first. The shutdown of the Bodog.com site was the first sports gambling site to be shut down, claiming it was within the US governments rights under this law. The problem: Bodog.com is a Canadian-owned site.

Why was it shut down? The US said the site violates US gambling laws. Internet activists were in an uproar, and in response, the government gave a statement that they will continue to exert control over domains (.com, .net, .cc, .tv, and .name), no matter where they are based. The reason: they don't trust other countries to respond to the demands of the US regarding illegal activities that might be taking place on that domain.

 Feds Can Seize Your Domain: Controversy

EasyDNS, Internet infrastructure company, was outraged, claiming the “ramifications of this are no less than chilling and every single organization branded or operating under .com, .net, .org, .biz etc. needs to ask themselves about their vulnerability to the whims of US federal and state lawmakers.”

The government, of course, couldn't care any less. They said they've done it before, and they don't intend on stopping anytime soon. Nichole Navas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said it doesn't matter where the domain is based — the company that has the contract to administer them (VeriSign in the Bodog.com example) is based in the US.

 Feds Can Seize Your Domain: It's All About Location

So basically, the US owns the Internet, all because the US is home base for VeriSign, overseer of all .com and .net domains.

Navas said the US government typically serves court orders to VeriSign because “foreign-based registrars are not bound to comply with US court orders.” They do the same with VeriSign's non-profit that controls .org domains, the Public Interest Registry.

In all, Navas said the US government has seized a total of 750 domains, “most with foreign-based registrars,” to shut down operations dealing with illegal movie and music downloads, the sale of counterfeit goods, and illegal sports sites.

 Feds Can Seize Your Domain: VeriSign Happy To Comply

VeriSign released this statement on the issue:

“VeriSign responds to lawful court orders subject to its technical capabilities…When law enforcement presents us with such lawful orders impacting domain names within our registries, we respond within our technical capabilities.”

The company did not release information detailing how many times they've had requests to shut sites down. The method of compliance: providing some form of official message stating the site has been seized by the government.

 Feds Can Seize Your Domain: A Solution?

There is talk of putting the UN in charge of the DNS system, taking away the US government's absolute power in this arena. However, could this lead to more trouble? Would it give any country the power to seize a domain name?

Any way you look at it, there is a big issue that needs to be addressed. How would you solve the problem (Feds Can Seize Your Domain)? Or do you not even see a problem?

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