The Endless (Cyber) Jurisdiction of the U.S. Government

by Julian Ku

Fascinating article on how the U.S. government can, if it chooses, force almost any website with the “.com” suffix to shut down.

…the U.S. government… says it has the right to seize any .com, .net and .org domain name because the companies that have the contracts to administer them are based on United States soil, according to Nicole Navas, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.

The controversy highlights the unique control the U.S. continues to hold over key components of the global domain name system, and rips a Band-Aid off a historic sore point for other nations. A complicated web of bureaucracy and Commerce Department-dictated contracts signed in 1999 established that key domains would be contracted out to Network Solutions, which was acquired by VeriSign in 2000. That cemented control of all-important .com and .net domains with a U.S. company – VeriSign – putting every website using one of those addresses firmly within reach of American courts regardless of where the owners are located – possibly forever.

I think the system works pretty well for now, and I doubt creating an international regulatory system will improve things. But still, when the U.S. exercises its power over these sites indiscriminately, it will increase calls to break the U.S. government’s semi-control over the Internet.

5 Responses

  1. I use to follow ICANN very closely in the late 90’s and early 00’s.  Back in the days of netizens and that whole cool new world vision stuff I was a member of ICANN as a netizen.  That all got rejiggered into “interest groups” with the folks with money dominating the space.  Use to go to ICANN meetings in my netizen role.  Network Solutions role started much earlier back in 1993 when it got a deal with Commerce during the lame duck period of Bush I.  ICANN was a late 90’s creation and Esther Dyson led its creation and the transitioning from IANA and the late John Postel (died mysteriously) who use to be the guy who would decide whether you could have a domain name.

    The heart of this space was the Dept of Commerce contracts with ICANN to manage the domain name system.  In turn ICANN was working to get control over the  country code domain names.

    Very difficult times for ICANN in prying Network Solutions away from its monopoly (by the way Network Solutions was originally a minority owned business at its founding –  owned by a black entrepreneur if my memory serves me right.).

    Network Solutions was the monopoly registrar for the top level domains as well as the principal registrar for lots of the country code domains.  In addition to being a registrar it was the registry (the place where the domain names sit) which I remember as being server farms in Herndon, Virginia.  13 sites around the world were the backbone including some military computers.

    Issues of US jurisdiction for those domain names have been in discussion for somet ime.  I believe that Prof Xuan-Thao Nguyen at SMU has written aexcellent stuff bout these things in the early 00’s.  I have a piece in 2002 on the domain name dispute resolution system called. 

    Benjamin G. Davis, Une Magouille Planetaire: The UDRP is an International Scam, An Independent Assessment of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, 72 Miss. L. J. 815 (2002)
    Once it appeared not to be about neutral dispute resolution and more about cleaning Network Solutions balance sheet so it could be sold to Verisign – I walked away from that space.

    Verisign  and Network Solutions are very savvy players in the government contracting game – they play Glass Bead Game level or better (hat tip to Hermann Hesse). 

  2. U.S. wants to control the internet, the outer space, the U.N., the oil. Everything. Every state is sovereign, but U.S. is the Sovereign.

  3. Mihai,

    You are, of course, free to create a separate internet apart from the one created by the US and independent of ICANN control.

  4. @NewStream Dream
    And if I did’n like that U.S. abducted, raped and tortured El-Masri, what do I have to do? Do I have to move to another planet?

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