Sunday, September 9, 2012

Federal Law Enforcement or Big Brother via Internet? You make the call.

From Yahoo News /Digital Trends earlier this year:

US gov't claims right to seize any .com domain

If your domain ends in .com, the United States government says it has the right to seize it from your control, reports Wired. The same goes for any URL that ends in .net, .cc, .tv, .name, and .org.
This troubling declaration of power comes after US authorities shutdown the online sports gambling site last week — even though the website was owned by a Canadian company, which many assumed put it outside of US jurisdiction. Not so, apparently. That’s because the only company allowed to issue new .com domains is VeriSign, which is based — you guessed it — in the US.
According to a spokesperson for the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), anytime the US government wants to take down a .com, .net, .tv, or .name domain, all it has to do is issue a court order to VeriSign, which quickly complies. The same process applies to the Public Interest Registry, which controls the .org top-level domain.

In principle, if you're obeying the law, not using your .com (or dot-whatever) domain to violate US Federal law like online gambling, selling counterfeit or pirated merchandise, you won't have any trouble.  In short, the article clarifies that since the US invented the internet, the US makes the rules.  .com may be used worldwide but it is, at its core, an American domain issue and VeriSign is going to obey every last order to keep its federal contract to issue .com and .net domains.

If you're going to engage in activity that violates US federal law, you probably want to pick a different nation's domain.  I'm not recommending that, nor am I saying that's 100% protection either.

So how close are we to the line between "freedom of information" and prevention of abuse that harms law-abiding citizens?  Comments are wide open.

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