Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Buy a .com in England, go to jail in America?

Kevin Murphy, July 5, 2011, Domain Policy

People who register .com or .net domain names to conduct illegal activity risk extradition to the United States because the domains are managed by an American company.

That’s the startling line reportedly coming from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is trying to have the British operator of TVShack.net shipped out to stand trial in the US.

According to reports, 22-year-old student Richard O’Dwyer is fighting extradition to face charges of criminal copyright infringement.

ICE assistant deputy director Erik Barnett told The Guardian that any overseas web site using a .com or .net address to spread pirated material is a legitimate target for prosecution in the States.

The agency has already started shutting down .com and .net sites by seizing their domains, even if the sites in question had been found legal in their own overseas jurisdictions.

It does so by serving a court order to VeriSign, the registry manager, which is based in Virginia. The company is of course obliged to obey the order.

TVShack.net provided links to bootleg movies and TV shows, rather than hosting the content itself. It appears to be a matter of some confusion in the UK whether that behavior is actually illegal or not.

The site reportedly was hosted outside the US, and O’Dwyer never visited the US. The only link was the domain name.

I’m British, but DI is a .com, so I’d like to exercise my (presumed conferred) First Amendment rights to call this scenario utterly insane.

The issue of legal jurisdiction, incidentally, is one that potential new gTLD applicants need to keep in mind when selecting a back-end registry services provider.

Most incumbent providers are based in the US, and while we’ve seen plenty of upstarts emerge in Europe, Asia and Australia, some of those nations sometimes have pretty crazy laws too.