Judge Allows Kentucky To Seize Domain Names

from the bad,-bad-news dept

Last month, we wrote about a judge allowing Kentucky’s governor to seize 141 domain names that were somehow associated with gambling sites under a bizarre interpretation of Kentucky law. Pretty much everyone involved admits that this is just Kentucky’s governor protecting local gambling establishments who supported him in the election. No one is even hiding the fact that this is purely about protecting the governor’s political supporters from any sort of competition.

However, what’s scary is in how the seizure is incredibly broad and far-reaching. None of the sites are based in Kentucky. Many of the sites are nothing more than holding pages, rather than actual online casinos. And, the law itself interprets these sites as “illegal gambling devices” which seems like a big stretch. There was some pushback, as people explained to the judge what an incredibly bad precedent this ruling would set — as it would effectively allow any local law to be used to take possession of any website.

Apparently, the judge doesn’t care. Late last week, the judge upheld the original ruling, giving one small out to the various sites. If they implement filters that block access to any IP address in Kentucky, they can keep their domain names. That’s backwards. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a website that is just online to use geocoding techniques to comply with every single local law. If that were the case, the internet would ground to a halt, as any website would face so many different liabilities from so many different jurisdictions to make it impossible to comply — and in each lack of compliance, face a potential seizure of the domain name. This is a bad ruling by any stretch of the imagination, made even more bizarre by the judge’s unilateral ruling before a hearing was even held. The whole thing sounds quite questionable, and hopefully will be dumped on appeal.

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Comments on “Judge Allows Kentucky To Seize Domain Names”

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37 Comments
Tony (user link) says:

Re: Not concerned

The problem is, there’s too much of that sort of ignorance, incompetence, or just plain corruption at every level. We certainly can HOPE it will be reversed, but it may not.

Of course, if the registrars are in different jurisdictions – or better yet, a different country entirely, that may make enforcement just a bit difficult.

Clarence says:

Ignorance?

This also could be the judge’s ignorance of how the internet works. Which makes it e ven more sad that such stupid people are interpreting laws that affect many more people than they have a right. If this affects people outside of Kentucky, then certainly its OUTSIDE of his jurisdiction. What if the sites are outside of the country? Ignorance is bliss… even if it makes you look like FOOL!

Shohat says:

No, this isn't an Ignorance issue

Judges are supposed to be ignorant to some extent, especially to such new technologies such as the Internet and domain name issues. There is no problem in that.

But point is, if Kentucky can do this, so should be able every single country in the world, to any site in the world.

They should not block sites, but just punish Kentucky visitors. Jail time.
Problem solved

Duane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, I think that is a very good idea. I like the thought of a Web Armageddon of that type.

The judge in this case doesn’t appear to be particularly stupid or corrupt (determined by a quick review of other cases)so something else is at work. Maybe Steve Bashear just needs to realize this sword cuts both ways. Pissing off the alcohol lobbies would be just the thing to ensure he doesn’t get elected again.

NullOp says:

Ruling...

Judges know little if anything about the internet. They have no idea the effects of such a ruling.

Have some fun with this. Write the gov and tell him since you’ve learned of this you are relocating your or, better yet, your companies event to another state! Send it to him on letterhead for the effect that will have. Be sure to connect it to the ruling mandated by this judge!

Shohat says:

Stop claiming judge is ignorant

Seriously.
Most internet users are completely ignorant of low-tech things which they have grown up with.

Most people don’t know how to make a chair, fix a window, build a simple table, fix a fridge, etc. Simple things that they have grown up with.
You can’t expect people to know what email is just because some 5% of the earth’s population happen to use it. Considering the microscopic importance of the Internet in people’s lives, it should be the last requirement for someone to be a judge.

BUT, a judge should know when his actions have an impact on things that are not in his jurisdiction. That’s the issue.

Rob (profile) says:

TechDirt...

depresses me every day. Seriously, when are our personal freedoms going to stop being trampled on. Thanks for being the messenger, even if its horrible news, day in and day out.

Now, if these domain owners can prove residency outside of Kentucky, Hosting and Purchase outside of Kentucky, etc. etc., can they have their local / state / even the US government step up and stop this seizure?

I mean, if they aren’t residents, whats the difference between this and Kentucky just attacking another state and seizing a building; both are loss of personal property.

Now, if they are in Kentucky, these owners are probably pretty hosed.

David (user link) says:

Re: TechDirt...

Now, if these domain owners can prove residency outside of Kentucky, Hosting and Purchase outside of Kentucky, etc. etc., can they have their local / state / even the US government step up and stop this seizure?

Probably not, given that others are trying to compete for their state or Federal government’s attention for their respective issues.

Fortunately, there are parties who are trying to resist this, namely the 2 registrars Moniker and Network Solutions (yup, the Network Solutions):

http://www.gambling911.com/gambling-news/kentucky-online-gambling-domain-seizure-case-predicted-outcome-100808.html

Network Solutions is standing by the 20 plus online gambling companies they represent

http://domainnamewire.com/2008/10/09/moniker-kentucky-cannot-have-our-customers-domains/

As such, Moniker has not handed over the domains and will protect the rights of the owners of the domains subject to the order of the Kentucky court by not handing over such names unless and until the matter has been resolved by the Kentucky court or there is an order of a court of competent jurisdiction ordering Moniker to do so.

It’s still hanging for Go Daddy, although their giving the Kentucky a certificate agreeing to their jurisdiction has hurt the domain registrants’ case. And eNom is really one to possibly avoid since they transferred the domains way before the judge eventually ruled for the seizure.

Lima Oscar Lima says:

Re: whiskey tango foxtrot

Love the title of your comment. I’ll have to use that one myself…unless, of course, you are from Kentucky and you have a judge in your pocket or just one thinking he might be needing a favor down the road and is willing to take from me and give you my office that I happened to write this from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ah, are these registrars that complied located in Kentucky as well? If not, I don’t see why any registrar would comply to a court order that clearly crosses jurisdictional limits. I sincerely doubt any foreign registrar would even bother with this. And I like to see a judge in Kentucky order a registrar in a foreign country to turn control over to a U.S. State. Could you imagine the liability incurred by an ISP complying with such a farcical order?

David (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ah, are these registrars that complied located in Kentucky as well? If not, I don’t see why any registrar would comply to a court order that clearly crosses jurisdictional limits. I sincerely doubt any foreign registrar would even bother with this. And I like to see a judge in Kentucky order a registrar in a foreign country to turn control over to a U.S. State. Could you imagine the liability incurred by an ISP complying with such a farcical order?

See my comment above, AC. The other registrars might comply out of their own choice though the foreign ones like Fabulous don’t, and it’ll take any existing legal treaties between the U.S. and whereever country the registrar is in if the Kentucky state wants to force the issue.

They can also try to force it in Virginia since that’s where the .com Registry is located, though that’s debatable. It remains to be seen, depending how far all the involved parties want to go.

direwolff (profile) says:

Boycott Kentucky residents ;)

while i’m saddened to suggest that we take it out on kentucky residents, since they have the power to vote these judges and governors in and out of office, perhaps it s/b in their hands to help the judge think this through a bit more. given this state of affairs and the power this judge and governor have decided to exact on the net, if all web sites prevented users fm a kentucky ip address to view any of their pages, that might help these official better align their decision with the rest of our country’s. to say that this is an abuse of power is an understatement, but there are simple remedies to bring order back to this chaos they’re inflicting. don’t forget, the net always routes around points of failure 😉

YetAnotherKentuckySchmuck says:

Elected Judges

Tragically, many places elect judges, including Kentucky. We also elect sheriffs, Commonwealth (District) Attorneys, tax collectors, and Railroad Commissioners.

The governor is shaking down the online casinos, he’s said as much. The simple fact is that it’s a protection racket kind-of-a-deal, and it hasn’t worked-he’s not extracting any taxes or revenue. He may be gaining market share for his donors, the resident casinos and tracks, but that’s arguable…the state runs a lottery too, I wonder if he’ll go after that next.

It’s my guess that the attempt to condemn domains will fail on appeal. Many such bits of opportunism have gone that way in my experience.

Sadly, my coal powered government has chosen to abuse technological opportunity more often than not, as educated affluent people don’t go in for medievel things like strip mining. Keeping a lot of chaff in the air makes it easier to do things folks wouldn’t approve of. I keep wondering what he’s trying to distract me from.

jay says:

If I were a law enforcement agency how would I do this? Personally, my ISP is in another state, so there are just routers between me and the ISP (which is where I am assuming any firewalls live). So the phone and cable companies would have to have firewalls on their routers for out of state ISPs. But of course the satellite dish users wouldn’t have this restriction which would make them very popular. This would be a very expensive request for the utility companies and in the end wouldn’t accomplish much.

Allen Taylor (user link) says:

Not necessarily

It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a website that is just online to use geocoding techniques to comply with every single local law. If that were the case, the internet would ground to a halt, as any website would face so many different liabilities from so many different jurisdictions to make it impossible to comply — and in each lack of compliance, face a potential seizure of the domain name.

Not necessarily. The state of New York has imprisoned gambling site owners who lived in foreign countries and whose servers were located in another country simply because New Yorkers were gambling on their sites. I don’t agree with the law nor the way that it has been enforced, but there is some precedence and case law that may swing in favor of the state.

On the other hand, this appears to be an interstate commerce issue and if the defense attorney approaches it from that perspective he might win an appeal. But then that would open the door for federal legislation of e-commerce.

If the sites voluntarily agreed to block Kentucky IP addresses, they’d be doing a public service. The law is currently in favor of law enforcement agencies when it comes to online gambling. Porn providers have more freedom.

Scott Neuman (user link) says:

Judge Goes Crazy! Says he created internet domain names and wants them back.

This is just amazing. Congress passes law after law telling the states, hands off. Prior case law states that domain names are licensed. There is no correct way to block a Kentucky IP address and it just looks like the Judge is either 1. crazy 2. nuts 3. a ultra conservative 4. paid off by the gaming companies in his state.

Of course, the problem becomes if he can do it, then any local, state or goverment entity can do it. None of which makes sense.

Scott Neuman – President – Recordweb.com.

Felecia Davis (user link) says:

Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock

Hello. My names is Felecia Davis. I am a Administration of Justice student at University of Phoenix perusing my Masters degree. I need someone from the Kentucky Governors office to contact me concern the Apollo 17 Goodwill moon-rock ASAP> This is a assignment for me that I must complete very soon Ps or if ANYONE know please let me know. Thank you very much Ms Felecia Davis

Felecia Davis (user link) says:

Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock

Hello. My names is Felecia Davis. I am a Administration of Justice student at University of Phoenix perusing my Masters degree. I need someone from the Kentucky Governors office to contact me concern the Apollo 17 Goodwill moon-rock ASAP> This is a assignment for me that I must complete very soon Ps or if ANYONE know please let me know. Thank you very much Ms Felecia Davis

Felecia Davis (user link) says:

Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock

Hello. My names is Felecia Davis. I am a Administration of Justice student at University of Phoenix perusing my Masters degree. I need someone from the Kentucky Governors office to contact me concern the Apollo 17 Goodwill moon-rock ASAP> This is a assignment for me that I must complete very soon Ps or if ANYONE know please let me know. Thank you very much Ms Felecia Davis

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