U.S. says it can seize any .com domain, regardless of where it is registered

By Lee Kaelin on March 7, 2012, 8:30 AM

The shutdown of online sports betting site bodog.com by U.S. law enforcement authorities last week certainly raised eyebrows throughout the web. Despite the site’s domain being registered in Canada, it was seized by authorities who went to the .com domain's root operators, VeriSign.

Using a domain registrar in Canada should have been enough to prevent the U.S. any lawful access. That probably would have been the case if it weren't for VeriSign having the right to force changes on top of local domain registrars.

Mark Jeftovic summed up the concerns aired by many over the recent actions of the Federal agencies. "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 (not exactly known their cluefulness nor even-handedness, especially with regard to matters of the internet)," said Mark Jeftovic wrote on the EasyDNS blog.

Even more alarming, the U.S. government responded to this news by saying they have done it hundreds of times previously. They didn’t stop there though; a spokesperson left no doubt as to how the Federal agencies feel about seizing U.S. managed domains.

"They have the right to seize any .com, .net and .org domain as the companies with the contracts to administer them are located on American soil, and therefore fall under U.S. laws," according to Nicole Navas, a spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

So it seems it doesn’t matter where the server is located, or who you have registered the domain with – if its .com U.S. law enforcement have a right to seize it should it commit any offences under their law.

VeriSign has been caught up in this mess, tied between complying with legal requests in its headquartered state, against allowing the laws in the domain's registered home country to prevail.

"VeriSign responds to lawful court orders subject to its technical capabilities," the company said in a statement. "When law enforcement presents us with such lawful orders impacting domain names within our registries, we respond within our technical capabilities," they said in a statement to Wired.

The root operator refused to comment on how many times it had taken these actions previously, and insisted that all further enquiries be made to the appropriate seizing authorities.




User Comments: 44

Got something to say? Post a comment
Guest said:

This article is a perfect example of why we need ACTA.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I still don't understand why anyone is surprised by this. If you break the law in the US, you must deal with the consequences of the law. These aren't websites who are breaking US law in another country. They're breaking US law in the US. Isn't this common sense?

Can you imagine the pandora's box that would be open if websites could operate against US law just because they registered in some other country? A pedophiles dream come true!

You quote Mark Jeftovic... a guy who makes more money if these sites remain open. No wonder he's against it, but why should we be?

psycros psycros said:

It wouldn't even matter if Verisign was as US company or not. Buying Canadian drugs online is just as illegal (and stupid) as using a foreign gambling site. US companies shouldn't be allowed to skirt the law just because their sites are in other countries - that's would be like RJ Reynolds selling hashish online from a domain in Yemen.

Guest said:

I don't see how they can do this.

Surely all they should be able to do is ban the viewing of whichever website is in breach of US law within the US?

I can see things getting very out of hand soon

Guest said:

if i live in canada, and i buy a hammer online from a company in the us and then go and beat the life out of some canadian, i'm not subject to us law simply because i bought the weapon from a store in the us.

this website seizing is no different.

MilwaukeeMike said:

psycros said:

It wouldn't even matter if Verisign was as US company or not. Buying Canadian drugs online is just as illegal (and stupid) as using a foreign gambling site. US companies shouldn't be allowed to skirt the law just because their sites are in other countries - that's would be like RJ Reynolds selling hashish online from a domain in Yemen.

Not trying to get off subject, but buying Canadian drugs isn't illegal. They require you to mail or fax them a valid perscription. You might be able to fax it, and then get it filled locally and double up, but that's up to you.

Imagine if we could order any blu-ray we want for $5 just because the company registered a website in China?

Guest said:

so..its only bcuz they have some kind of "Rights" or "Patent" for the creation of the domains .com. .net .org etc? its really bad that they mess with other countries like this, its not that the pedo guy will be outside of the arms of the law but...this is a threat to all the liberties so....maybe we need a new internet out of the hands of any country specially the US or something like that...its really bad they own that... the answer should be clear...let them have it and create something else like (windows and Linux)

MilwaukeeMike said:

Guest said:

if i live in canada, and i buy a hammer online from a company in the us and then go and beat the life out of some canadian, i'm not subject to us law simply because i bought the weapon from a store in the us.

this website seizing is no different.

This isn't about a US Law in Canada, or a Canadian law in the US. This is about the US law in the US. And your example is so completely lacking in common sense that I can't tell if you're trolling or just shockingly naive.

Guest said:

I don't get it. Does the US think they own the internet?

If I was living in a country where marijuana was legal and I was selling it online, then why would the US be able to shut my website down?

I think the only right the US should have is to block US users from accessing it.

I'm sick and tired of Americans thinking they run the world.

cptmds said:

Guest said:

I think the only right the US should have is to block US users from accessing it.

I have to agree - if a US company registered a .com domain using a Canadian registrar, I can understand seizing the domain. However, if a NON-US company registers a domain, using a NON-US registrar, and that non-US company does not have any offices in the US, how can the US step in and seize it? This opens up a huge can of worms...essentially, it means that if some company in India were to register a .com domain, and some US government official didn't like it, they could seize it.

On another note, how come the US gets .com , .net, etc. but no other country can? I think the US should only get .us ; much as another country, like Canada, gets .ca .

If the company does not have a US presence, then I think the most the US should be able to do is censor it and block US users from using it (much like the policies in China, I might add).

Guest said:

The new Soviet Russia right here people! Land of the Free my a@@.

Guest said:

The fact that I live in the U.S. and I am reading this makes me feel bad. I finally understand why so many people hate the americans becuase of the politicans doing this and giveing the american citizens a bad image.

Guest said:

No, this is the perfect reason that ACTA, SOPA, and all similar bills are completely unnecessary as they already have the power they need.

If I ever host a website, I'm doing so on either a .se or another international hosting service.

Renrew Renrew said:

1776 Land of the free, 1976 land of the freer than most, 2012 land of the freer than some.

Guest said:

You... don't seem to understand do you? The DOMAIN was registered through an American company. The SERVER ( which all information was stored on ) was in Canada along with the company paying for the domain. These people weren't breaking laws in the US, just using a US company to register a .com domain for their server.

inventix1136 said:

I know more and more companies are thinking about not using any servers or registrars in U.S. due to the danger of out of control government. Do you know that it is against European privacy law for a European company to use a U.S. based cloud provider because of the fact that U.S. does intercept the data without warrant (since it is coming from foreign location)? Also due to the reckless nature of this administration, a company has to consider the risk on using a U.S. based web host. Did you know that they had in the past raided a colocation hosting company because a single customer had questionable content and instead of grabbing the customer computers, they grabbed ALL servers at the center -- effectively taking many companies out of business since it took months to get back the servers.

I virtually GUARANTEE that a lot more jobs were lost due to the questionable behavior of the government than are lost due to the piracy that they are "fighting".

"But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." -- Hermann Goering, Nuremburg trials

treetops treetops said:

So am I to understand if they were using say .xxx in another country that there would be nothing the usa could do?

MilwaukeeMike said:

cptmds said:

Guest said:

I think the only right the US should have is to block US users from accessing it.

I have to agree - if a US company registered a .com domain using a Canadian registrar, I can understand seizing the domain. However, if a NON-US company registers a domain, using a NON-US registrar, and that non-US company does not have any offices in the US, how can the US step in and seize it? This opens up a huge can of worms...essentially, it means that if some company in India were to register a .com domain, and some US government official didn't like it, they could seize it.

On another note, how come the US gets .com , .net, etc. but no other country can? I think the US should only get .us ; much as another country, like Canada, gets .ca .

If the company does not have a US presence, then I think the most the US should be able to do is censor it and block US users from using it (much like the policies in China, I might add).

You answered your own question. In the case that started this Bodog.COM was shutdown because it was operating in the US. BODOG .CA is up and running fine in Canada. the US isn't shutting down foreign websites. They can step in and seize the website because it's illegal where it's being USED, not where the server is, or where the office is.

The US doesn't have censoring firewalls like China, that would be worse because we'd never know what was censored.

(The US gets .COM for Commercial because the internet started here. Same for .NET .ORG and why we don't have 'European Americans'

MilwaukeeMike said:

It's important to remember that the head of BODOG is being indicted for money laundering and his defense is 'I never allowed people in Maryland to gamble on my website, nor did I send them any winnings' No where in his defense is anything about the US seizing a website they shouldn't.

This whole debate really only exists in blogs and news sites like this one that prefer ranting to intelligent debate. The courts aren't even debating this, only the 'lawyers' in the comments section.

Tygerstrike said:

To be fair, if it wasnt for the US and its ppl, we prolly wouldnt have the internet. I can remember a time when it took a hurculean effort to get 2 laptops sitting next to each other to talk to each other. The tech evolved. And it was started in the US. If the US govt has the rights to any of those domains, its seems the logical solution would be to not register with those domains. Atleast not with those domains if youre planning to embezzel money or run an illegal betting operation......

The individual persons freedoms are no more in danger then you would be in danger of a shark attack in the mojave desert. 99% of the web useing populace doesnt have much to worry about unless they are doing something illegal. Theres a right and a wrong. If you have to justify your actions, its probly something illegal.

treetops treetops said:

@milmike

Whats next are we going to try to regulate whats broadcasted on tv in other countries because television was invented in America? Just because something was invented in america doesnt give america the right to regulate it at home or throughout the globe. It reminds me of how freedom of speech applies to everything but our televisions. The fcc is a government appointed group that tells us what we can and can't say on television. As wrong as that is it doesn't extend to other countries.

Speaking of pedophiles, France harbors convicted pedophiles from other countries including the USA. Why does the USA put up with it? Simple no one is losing money. A gambling site in Canada is taking money out of the pockets of the folks in America who run "legal" gambling sites from what las vegas? You can bet this is a result of lobbying (legal bribes) from las vegas big belt sports gambling to your baby kissing politicians.

Anytime the gov appears to make a decision based off lobbying and not logic I tend to be against it.

MilwaukeeMike said:

No where in the article does it say 'WHY' the website was shut down. That's because it's not really important. What's important is to get everyone angry at the govt. 'Sports betting' sounds much better than illegal gambling or money laundering.

You left out the part where the guy who runs the site is looking at 20 years in prison.

Reminds me of that scene in Holy Grail where they dress up a woman with a hat and fake nose and yell 'She's a witch! Burn her!'

Lurker101 said:

Coming next week: Techspot.ca

Tygerstrike said:

@Treetops

You are missing the whole point. Regardless of the action the us govt had to take, what the guy did was illegal. The US govt seizing his website is the consiquence of his illegal actions. Im sure if he was running a legal and aboveboard operation none of this would have happend.

Under your premiss, the govt should have left his website up? Why? So he can continue to perform illegal activities and make more money stealing from the very same ppl who were betting there?

Guest said:

I see now that the police is really only there to protect the disgustingly and "I ruin the lives of millions" rich from everyone else.

The world is a fixed pie; if you are greedy enough to possess millions of dollars, other people will be starving on their feet.

Guest said:

So this means that the US Government can shutdown any .com site anywhere in the world if 2 conditions are met:

a) it is accessible in the US (dah, INTERnet)

b) whatever business it runs, it's illegal in the US

So let's assume the scenario:

a) dutch website, hosted in the Netherlands, sells drugs to dutch people online

b) the .com was registered using Verisign

c) those drugs are illegal in the US

d) the site is accessible in the US

This means the US Government has the RIGHT to shutdown the site? Why can't one of the following options be used:

a) block access to the site in the US (a lot less work than having the site closed)

b) cancel the .com domain and force the company to host it elsewhere. This would require some days notice to allow dns spread and prevent economic damage to the selling company.

Geez....

Camikazi said:

Small FYI, most every big country has at least one nuke pointed at the US, just like the US has nukes pointed at them. It's called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), one shoots we are ALL screwed.

Win7Dev said:

If the domain was registered in the US the US has every right to take it back if the content of the site violates US laws. If it's a non-US domain and non-US servers, then the US cannot do anything unless they own the rights to .com, .net and .org domains. I don't know if they really own them, but if the US does own the three most common domain extensions, then yes they can do whatever they darn well please because they own the rights to them and you are just buying the right to use the domain, not own it for life.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Guest said:

So this means that the US Government can shutdown any .com site anywhere in the world if 2 conditions are met:

a) it is accessible in the US (dah, INTERnet)

b) whatever business it runs, it's illegal in the US

So let's assume the scenario:

a) dutch website, hosted in the Netherlands, sells drugs to dutch people online

b) the .com was registered using Verisign

c) those drugs are illegal in the US

d) the site is accessible in the US

This means the US Government has the RIGHT to shutdown the site? Why can't one of the following options be used:

a) block access to the site in the US (a lot less work than having the site closed)

b) cancel the .com domain and force the company to host it elsewhere. This would require some days notice to allow dns spread and prevent economic damage to the selling company.

Geez....

Answer: Because the website was being used to launder money. I'd say go read the article, but it leaves out all the reasons his website was shut down. I dont' think they'd block access because it raises all sorts of censorship issues. It would also be easier to get around. The Chinese use IP scramblers etc to get around the firewalls. Blocking isn't as effective and more repressive.

Tygerstrike said:

Mike do you honestly believe that half the posters here actually even know what the whole story is? All they see is "America is EVIL". That bandwagon has broken wheels.

All ppl are commenting on is the fact that America closed a website down. Not that the reason was because someone was commiting a crime. Not that a Canadian citizen attempted to circumvent American Laws. Any business worth its salt has a lawyer or two. Im 100% positive that his lawyers told him to expect legal trouble. And im also sure he sat back and said "Im Canadian, they cant touch me" Well guess what, the price of crime means he lost his .com domain. No if ands or buts.

Guest said:

On another topic concerning America being evil:

Kim Dotcom's lawyers informed him that he was protected by US law, the same laws that protect Youtube and Google. The same laws that allowed Youtube to beat the courts. However the law doesn't matter if it doesn't fall in line with the US agenda, Kim Dotcom was arrested and had all his assets ceased/frozen without trial. Not sure how he is suppose to pay his lawyers. However they're apparently still working for him, I guess they know that he was in the right, and what the FBI did was illegal (as long as they win the case they'll get paid).

Interesting interview with Kim Dotcom: http://ondemand.tv3.co.nz/Campbell-Live-Thursday-March-1-201
/tabid/119/articleID/5578/MCat/73/Default.aspx

Guest said:

Every time I mean to write "seized" my fingers type "ceased". Meh.

anguis said:

If he broke no Canadian laws he should not be touched by the USA. Close the .com domain for violation of VeriSign's AUP (not sure if he violated the Canadian registrar's AUP or not). Trying to prosecute him for breaking no Canadian laws is absurd.

example1013 said:

treetops said:

@milmike

Whats next are we going to try to regulate whats broadcasted on tv in other countries because television was invented in America? Just because something was invented in america doesnt give america the right to regulate it at home or throughout the globe. It reminds me of how freedom of speech applies to everything but our televisions. The fcc is a government appointed group that tells us what we can and can't say on television. As wrong as that is it doesn't extend to other countries.

Speaking of pedophiles, France harbors convicted pedophiles from other countries including the USA. Why does the USA put up with it? Simple no one is losing money. A gambling site in Canada is taking money out of the pockets of the folks in America who run "legal" gambling sites from what las vegas? You can bet this is a result of lobbying (legal bribes) from las vegas big belt sports gambling to your baby kissing politicians.

Anytime the gov appears to make a decision based off lobbying and not logic I tend to be against it.

Try making an argument that DOESN'T rely on logical fallacy.

For anyone interested in what I'm talking about : this is a perfect example of a strawman argument. Rather than address the argument presented, instead of responding to MilMike's argument, Treetops instead created an argument MilMike WASN'T making, but he used PIECES of MilMike's post (constructing a straw man).

MilMike's argument:

.com is a domain for US commercial businesses. ONLY US commercial businesses are allowed to use .com. As a .com website, bodog.com is a US business. THEREFORE, bodog.com is under US jurisdiction regardless of the location of its servers, or the country in which it was registered.

end argument

MilMike then ANECDOTALLY adds that the REASON .com is a US domain is because the internet was started in the US.

Treetops' straw man (what HE says MilMike's argument is): The US invented the internet. Bodog.com is a site on the internet. THEREFORE, bodog.com is under US jurisdiction.

I don't think I have to explain why the second argument would be retarded if it were true, and why that would be a serious threat to the freedom of the internet, but I don't have to, because NO ONE is claiming that the second argument IS true.

I find it hilarious that someone would think such a blatantly fallacious argument would be convincing to anyone.

example1013 said:

anguis said:

If he broke no Canadian laws he should not be touched by the USA. Close the .com domain for violation of VeriSign's AUP (not sure if he violated the Canadian registrar's AUP or not). Trying to prosecute him for breaking no Canadian laws is absurd.

They're prosecuting him for violating US laws. The argument isn't whether or not his servers or registrations were in Canada (they were). The argument isn't even whether or not bodog.com was operating within the US (it was, the .com domain name is ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY used for commercial businesses operating within the US). The argument was whether or not, while operating in the US, bodog.com broke US laws.

Tygerstrike said:

@example

Give it up. Trolls dont understand basic logic. You can try and explain but all your doing is wasteing cyber ink lol. Alot of the posters here are confusing kim.com and this case. This one was about a Canadian billionaire flaunting his Canadian citizenship trying to bypass US Laws.

anguis said:

example1013 said:

They're prosecuting him for violating US laws. The argument isn't whether or not his servers or registrations were in Canada (they were). The argument isn't even whether or not bodog.com was operating within the US (it was, the .com domain name is ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY used for commercial businesses operating within the US). The argument was whether or not, while operating in the US, bodog.com broke US laws.

He is not a US citizen. He was not doing business in the US. .com domain names are NOT ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY used for commercial businesses operating within the US (this is a completely absurd assumption). Shut down the .com domain and gtfo, there is nothing more to it. Trying to prosecute a foreigner for doing things that were legal in that foreigner's country of citizenship is absurd and disrespectful of that country's sovereignty.

Guest said:

what matters to the US if a canadian was using a canadian site to break US laws?

the only connection to the US was the .com DOMAIN. not even the server.

if the site is made available IN the US, thus breaking US laws, then shutdown access to the US "customers". that's as stretchable as I see it. If the people can go around these blocks, then it's an individual crime, not the "seller's" crime.

blame the canadian guy if he operated in the us, dont blame the site.

Tygerstrike said:

@anguis

He doesnt have to be a US citizen to violate or break a Law in the US. He broke a Law in the US and has to pay for his crime. And point in fact...Embezzelment is Illegal in Canada too. You are latching on to the fact that his domain got shut down all the while completly ignoring the fact that the gentleman in question was doing something thats illegal ALL OVER THE WORLD! His betting site was the vehicle for his Money Laundering and Embezzlment. Having his site shutdown isnt imoral nor illegal. Since his site was what he was useing to commit the crime, it was taken away from him.

Guest said:

@Tygerstrike

He is a Canadian running a business in Canada that is accessible to the entire world.

Canada happens to be a country with its own sovereignty, its own law enforcement agencies, its own laws, its own courts. It's not the US, period.

I agree he happened to be violating the law and should be taken into court and judged by that. But that is not the real issue here.

The issue is the US, as a state and through its own law enforcing agencies, effectively succeeding in enforcing its own laws and own law enforcement over another country, superseding its sovereignty. Kinda like breaking into "someone's" house in Afghanistan without telling the local authorities first.

That is a defiance to each country's authority and sovereignty. The US should have no legal basis to make its rulings in another country.

I don't believe it would be taken kindly if it was found by Canada that the CEO of Amazon was conducting illegal business, and Canada by itself managed to take down Amazon, without the US taking part.

Yes, he was doing illegal stuff. Yes, it should be taken down. I would accept Canada or INTERPOL or something. But not the US, as an independent entity. That's unacceptable. The US don't police the world based on their own rules.

First approach, close down access to the site from the US with the pretty image with the eagle when accessed, then start legal action WITH Canada, not OVER Canada, to take the site down.

Otherwise, just GTFO!

Tygerstrike said:

The crime was commited in the US. Verisign already admitted that they had a court order to take the site down. Ergo there was a court order delivered to Canada. Obviously a Canadian Magistrait agreed with the court order. So its not like the US is storming into Canada and snatching the billionaire from his bed. Its going through the legal channels. The US isnt policing the world. They are attempting to bring to justice a person who hides behind another country to protect themselves from being charged or arrested. Just because he is at home in Canada doesnt mean he doesnt have to face any charges. The US isnt trying to control the internet, just shutdown a website that is theirs to do with as they see fit. This is all being done through the courts. Both US and Candian. The US seizing his website is no different then the police taking a car that was used in a smuggling operation. It was part and parcel of the crime.

Guest said:

Verisign has no authority to take a site down. At best, to take the domain down, or to route it somewhere else.

I agree the man should be charged of his crimes, but the site itself is not illegal where it is hosted.

Again, take down access from US users or take down the .com domain. Not the site.

treetops treetops said:

I wonder what people woulds say if a USA meat packing factory was shutdown by another country ran by islamic law because the meat factory shipped it with a envelope invented in their country.

I guess it would be a better example if they seized all their envelopes and prosecuted them for selling pork.

btw i dont consider mil a opponent nor am i trying to misrepresent his position, not everything said is directed solely to mil but to the topic as a whole

mm envelope full of pork gurgle

Guest said:

You obviously have zero CLUE... ACTA is a unmitigated disaster.... making the DMCA look nice.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.