Why Did The US Gov't Take Down A British Travel Agent's Websites?

from the jurisdictional-questions dept

Over the years, we've seen a ton of jurisdictional questions raised by the internet. After all, since the internet is available just about anywhere, and content on it may break laws in some countries, but not others, how do you handle the jurisdiction question. Some courts have determined that it doesn't matter -- and they'll claim jurisdiction for whatever they want. Others suggest that evidence needs to be shown that the content is directed at and was seen by many people within the jurisdiction. Others have held that it needs to be created by a local resident or hosted on a local server. However, with all that said, it's not clear what jurisdiction the US government seems to be claiming over a bunch of websites created by a British travel agent. The websites all advertise trips to or information about Cuba. The websites were designed for European travelers to plan trips to the island nation. Now, it's well known that US citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba, but that's not true of people from other countries. So, this guy clearly was not breaking any laws.

No matter, though. Since he had registered the domains for his various websites through eNom, an American company, the US Treasury Department had them pull down his sites and to refuse to release them to another registrar. There's no doubt that if the sites were targeting Americans or was run by an American travel agency, you could understand these actions. But to take down a UK-based website that was aimed at European travelers, offering them perfectly legitimate trips to Cuba, seems to go beyond any reasonable jurisdictional claim.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 11:51am

    What people just do not seem to understand is that .com is a US registration of a Web Server which makes it subject to US law.

    If the web site had been registered as a Spanish site then it would not have been subject to US law and would not have been taken down.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    DanC, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    "which makes it subject to US law."

    No law was broken, so there shouldn't be any issue.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    AMERICANS JUST BEING GAY THINKING THEY RUN SHIT

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re:

    If you read both the snippet and the article, you would see that he was breaking a law by offering travel to Cuba.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    away in a manger, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:57pm

    dot com nonsense

    The .com domain is meant to signify a business or corporation, it use or issue is not limited to the USA. The US government has no jurisdiction in this matter.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Q: Why Did The US Gov't Take Down A British Travel Agent's Websites?

    A: The British Travel Agent "had registered the domains for his various websites through eNom, an American company."

    Any other questions?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    Re:

    That might explain the takedown but not the release to another registrar.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Dave Zawislak, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Yes, the US likes tol show how a free democratic society can repress its citizens as well as Cuba can.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    So, regardless of all the other issues here, I would like to point out that Americans do indeed mostly "run shit."

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    udamdirtyape, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    We are the chickenshittiest of bullies.

    Why can't an American travel to Cuba anyway? Why is the big, bad U.S. of A so scared of this little banana republic? Just because we dont own and exploit Cuba anymore? The USA is to Cuba what China is to Taiwan... Um excuse me, Chinese Taipei.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    udamdirtyape, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:27pm

    correction

    "steal shit" and then "run shit."

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    DanC, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    According to the U.S. Treasury Dept.:

    "U.S. travel service providers, such as
    travel agents, who handle travel arrangements to, from, or within Cuba must hold special authorizations from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage in such activities."

    It is therefore illegal for a U.S. travel agent to offer travel to or from Cuba without meeting this requirement. However, the travel agent in question is an English (UK) travel agent living in Spain, and as such is not required to meet the U.S. requirements for offering travel to Cuba.

    He is simply not subject to U.S. law, because he isn't a citizen. No law was broken.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    SSG, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:39pm

    Flexing Muscle

    We run it because we have big military muscle. The government can do what it wants when laws are violated through a American company. They did the right thing by letting everyone know we dont play.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Matt Bennett, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:44pm

    Re: correction

    Did you want to justify that?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Scott Gardner, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:55pm

    Re: dot com nonsense

    That was my impression as well, but now that I think about it, the only non-US-based corporations that use the .com top-level domain seem to be the ones doing business in the US. For instance, www.sony.com is the *SONY USA* site, not the main company site. Likewise, it's only the North American Hitachi site that uses ".com" for its top-level domain. Their other gateways (like www.hitachi.com.cn" don't use ".com" as the top-level domain. Or, www.bmw.com is the website for BMW North America, not the website for the German parent company BMW AG.

    And the only ICANN-accredited registrar for the .com domain is Verisign, which is a US company. I guess Verisign can sublet out their rights to registration companies like eNom, but it still boils down to the fact that it appears that *all* ".com" addresses are by definition registered through an American company (either directly by Verisign, or though some company like eNom that been "blessed" by Verisign).

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Big Gay Bob, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    Gay or not they do "run shit."

    ICAAN, InterNIC, these are "independant" organizations, they are supposed to be unbiased and neutral. But they are founded in and run from the US. Something the US Government has no problem taking advantage of.

    Other countries have 2 choices, fall in line with US controlled rules regarding DNS, or develop an alternate, uncontrolled name system. If they were smart they'd impliment their own.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Heywood, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    Re: We are the chickenshittiest of bullies.

    You're going to have to explain yourself if you want anyone to buy that comparison. Otherwise, you just come off as yet another "US SUX BU$H LIED" jerkoff.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    DanC, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Flexing Muscle

    "The government can do what it wants when laws are violated through a American company."

    That would make sense, if any laws had been violated.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    MORRIS, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:04pm

    FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

    THE USA GOVERNMENT UNDER BUSH/CHENY CONTINUE TO ERODE OUR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS, NOW THEY ARE TRYING TO IMPOSE THIS DENIAL UPON UK COMPANIES AND CITIZENS. WHEN WILL IT STOP !!!!!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    darrylxxx, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:05pm

    "If you read both the snippet and the article, you would see that he was breaking a law by offering travel to Cuba."

    If you read the article you'd see he wasn't targeting Americans so was not breaking any law, US or otherwise. It is NOT breaking the law to market to the rest of the world.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    darrylxxx, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    Re: dot com nonsense

    Nonsense. I live in the UK. I have many .com addresses. Some are with US registrars some with European. This action by a US agency is chilling - I will think twice before registering in the US again (though it's too much bother to move my YANKIESGOGUANTANAMO.COM domain)...

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Flexing Muscle

    The law in question here appears to be that a non-US company cannot use a US-registered website to offer goods or services that a US-based company could not legally offer.

    It appears that by booking trips using a US-registered website, the UK-based company is subjecting themselves to the same rules as "the U.S. travel service providers" mentioned in post #12.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    GHynson, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:13pm

    Waving Dick Cheneys

    My dick is bigger then your dick.

    That's what it's all about.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re: dot com nonsense

    Can you give an example of a non-US corporation that doesn't do business in the US and has a .com address? I bet if you follow the chain of registrars upstream, it will lead back to Verisign.

    Here's the link to the ICANN website listing the accredited registrars for each TLD:

    http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html

    As you can see, .om is operated solely by Verisign Global - a U.S. company.

    So, if you were to use one of your .com sites to sell Cuban cigars to other UK residents, I suspect you wouldn't be doing it for long...

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Joe, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:19pm

    The real issue

    The real issue is that a US company (eNom) is profiting (although indirectly) from the sale of trips to Cuba. This is similar to the US fining the Discovery channel for getting money from selling advertising to gambling websites.

    I would think that the proprieter of the website might have a WTO claim to the domain names.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Waving Dick Cheneys

    LOL nuff said

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Fushta, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:33pm

    Laws Broken?

    It's not like the travel agent, himself, is in trouble.

    The US Treasury Department just made the ISPs unavailable. He is free to continue to operate his business, just not on those domains.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:01pm

    This is why you can not have one country to be in charge of domain names.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Dijital, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: dot com nonsense

    Try [Link] (wikipedia.org) "Intended use: Commercial entities WORLDWIDE" The US has no more jurisdiction over .com than any other country. However since the website was hosted by an American company, they can take action against that particular company

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    The Greatest Country on Earth!, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Enough America Bashing

    Since the obviously oblivious people from whichever S*** country you're from seem to think Americans are "just being gay, thinking they run S***," why dont you look back into the anals of history and see how many times we've saved, brought a profit to, or just left alive your stupid ignorant asses. Thanks for making a complete fool of your county's historical education in a worldwide audience. See you in Iraq

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    The Greatest Country on Earth!, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:10pm

    Enough America Bashing

    Since the obviously oblivious people from whichever S*** country you're from seem to think Americans are "just being gay, thinking they run S***," why dont you look back into the anals of history and see how many times we've saved, brought a profit to, or just left alive your stupid ignorant asses. Thanks for making a complete fool of your county's historical education in a worldwide audience. See you in Iraq

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:20pm

    Re:

    If he was posting on his web site that he was offering travel to Cubia or North Korea and that web site was registered with a US domain name ie.com then he was breaking US law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:35pm

    Re: We are the chickenshittiest of bullies.

    Good question.

    It goes back to when Castro and the Communists took over Cuba and the US/Soviet Union missle chrisis.

    What really happen is official US, Cuba, Russia official secret as is most of the real events of the cold war. What is publicly known does not add up or explain the issue. Judging from sequential events the US and the Soviet Union must have reached a secret agreement part of which is that the US would have nothing to do with Castro, Cuba, and the Cuban Communists.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Jack Sombra, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:46pm

    Contrary to popular opinion...

    Contrary to popular opinion .com is NOT the US TLD rather .us is

    .com is an open generic TLD for use by anybody, though it was originally intended for commercial entities only (com is short for "commercial" not company as most people think)

    The agents mistake was registering with a US registrar, which gave the US authorities the ability to flex some Internet muscle even though he was breaking no US law (American cannot make laws controlling the travel of non americans to and from non US territories). If he had registered his .com with a non US based registrar they would not have been able to touch him

    Refusing to release the domain so he can move it is the American government being it normal childish bitchy self.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:51pm

    I bet shortly after the sites shutdown, and this media posting, their business just increased by 500%

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    The US does run things and if your sissy country forgets that we can come and kick your ass just to remind you.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    giff, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 4:13pm

    Re: Enough America Bashing

    Ha ha ha "anals of history" priceless!

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Jake, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 4:22pm

    Would the jingoistic chest-beaters please go and play somewhere else and let us have a serious discussion? Please? Thank you.

    Anyway, one CAN make a case that the travel agent in question was violating the letter of the law; like it or not, the USA has de facto possession (and arguably jurisdiction) over the .com domain name. However, this strikes me as an extremely flimsy justification to take summary action; all they had to do was write to him and inform him that he was technically in violation of US law by employing a .com domain name, and could he please do something about this within a reasonable period to correct it?

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    DanC, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Re:

    Which law? The embargo and travel restrictions make no mention of it. You seem to be sure of yourself, so I'm assuming you have some reference.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    DanC, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 4:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Flexing Muscle

    "It appears that by booking trips using a US-registered website, the UK-based company is subjecting themselves to the same rules as "the U.S. travel service providers" mentioned in post #12."

    Except there doesn't seem to be any law that actually spells this out. If it's illegal to do business with a foreign travel agent offering travel to Cuba, then the registrar is the guilty party, and the domain names should be released back to the owner. There should also have been some type of notice of this restriction when the travel agent registered the names.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    RF Engineer, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    here is the real story

    The U.S. Air Force accidentally sent e-mails that were meant to go to its base in Mildenhall, England to a tourism Web site with a similar address.

    Gary Sinnott had created a Web site, Mildenhall.com, in the 1990s in order to promote his hometown. But not long after that, he reportedly began to be bombarded with e-mails from Air Force members who were trying to contact people on the base, according to the BBC.

    Sinnott contacted Air Force officials, who told him not to be concerned about it and assured him they would tell their staff to use the correct address. But what started off as some personal e-mails and jokes later devolved into some pretty classified information, including military procedures.

    At one point, Sinnott received information about a presidential flight, so he contacted the Air Force again and an official, as expected, "went nuts," he told the BBC.

    Sinnot has since closed down the Web site to avoid receiving any more of the e-mails.

     

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  42.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 5th, 2008 @ 7:19pm

    Re: here is the real story

    The U.S. Air Force accidentally sent e-mails that were meant to go to its base in Mildenhall, England to a tourism Web site with a similar address.

    Er... which we wrote about two days ago:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080303/154948419.shtml

    I'm not sure why you're posting it in the comments here and now.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    opit, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 8:38pm

    US

    The US seems to be carrying out a campaign of harassing people worldwide on any pretext or none at all.
    The requirement that all passengers on European planes divulge personal information down to the blood type of their maiden aunt would be a case in point. It's the old "One - Two" : dominance and making it as intrusive as possible.
    I don't see any difference between this internet registration b.s., illegal spying and government hacking : it's part of a pattern of overbearing effrontery.
    It's not a case of the particulars of the law so much as the particulars of the cover story.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    SaveUsFromYankieMorons, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Enough America Bashing (#31) and #36

    "why dont you look back into the *anals* of history and see how many times we've saved, brought a profit to, or just left alive your stupid ignorant asses"

    "The US does run things and if your sissy country forgets that we can come and kick your ass just to remind you"

    It was anal-retentive, stuck-up, illiterate, ignorant (throw in favourite epithet here) morons like you who elected Bush and Dick. "See you in Iraq", eh? What an effin' joke! High time you ran along back to mommy. Run, jackass, run!

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    darrylxxx, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 1:54am

    Re: dot com nonsense

    My company for instance. It is UK registered and doesn't currently do business with the US. Not sure what your point is. Anyone in the world can have a .com address. The fact that all roads lead to a specific registrar in the US does not mean that it is 'owned' by the US since .com addresses are worldwide. However the reality is that the US use this method to command and control anything they don't like... still doesn't make it right.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    darrylxxx, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 1:55am

    Freedom of speech

    What ever happened to 'freedom of speech', or is that only for US citizens who toe the line?

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    darrylxxx, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 2:13am

    Re: Re: Re: dot com nonsense

    Are you saying that the US has the right to censor or block any .com domain they feel is counter to their interests?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: dot com nonsense

    Are you saying that the US has the right to censor or block any .com domain they feel is counter to their interests?

    Damn right.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2008 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Contrary to popular opinion...

    When you register a car in Spain and drive it in France with UK insurance you are subject to Spanish law on that car just as you are subject to US law when you register your domain in the US where it is illegal to go to or do business with Cubia.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 6:54am

    If he didn't want to be subject to USA laws, He should have used a UK domain service - DUH!!!!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Contrary to popular opinion...

    When you register a car in Spain and drive it in France with UK insurance you are subject to Spanish law on that car just as you are subject to US law when you register your domain in the US where it is illegal to go to or do business with Cubia [sic].

    Bullshit. You are subject to the traffic laws of the country in which you operate a vehicle. Just because you take your UK registered vehicle on holiday with you to France doesn't mean that you can drive it on the left while there.

    What an idiot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 3:14pm

    Re:

    If he didn't want to be subject to USA laws, He should have used a UK domain service - DUH!!!!!!!!

    Following that line of thinking, they should have been following US law and filing US Federal income taxes as well. In fact, that would make every foreign company that registered a domain name through a US company would be liable for US taxes. Do you think the IRS is going after them? No, because even the IRS knows how stupid that idea is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    tom scanlan, Apr 19th, 2008 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    Matt Bennett... if you're 53 and grew up in torrance, ca please contact me.... we were buds way back when. Tom

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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