US Government Admits It Has Seized Hundreds Of Domains Registered Outside The US

from the this-has-been-happening-for-a-while dept

After the US seized Bodog.com, we pointed to a writeup by EasyDNS that has created quite a stir, claiming that this was the first time that the US had seized a domain that was registered through a non-US registrar by going straight to the register (in this case VeriSign). But as we pointed out, that’s simply untrue. Back in 2010 we wrote about how most of the federal government’s domain seizures went directly to the register.

For whatever reason, more and more people keep picking up on the EasyDNS piece, including interesting questions about whether or not these seizures could be seen as declarations of war by seizing foreign property.

I’m glad that people are up in arms about this, but it’s important to remember that this simply isn’t new. In fact, the feds themselves seem bewildered by all these claims. In an interview with Wired, ICE spokesperson Nicole Navas admits that the government has seized approximately 750 domains this way, with the vast majority of them using foreign registrars:

Such seizures are becoming commonplace under the Obama administration. For example, the U.S. government program known as Operation in Our Sites acquires federal court orders to shutter sites it believes are hawking counterfeited goods, illegal sports streams and unauthorized movies and music. Navas said the U.S. government has seized 750 domain names, “most with foreign-based registrars.”

So, sure, speak up about this, but please, please recognize that this isn’t new. It’s been going on for at least three years. Hell, it’s so common these days that PIR, who runs the .org register, has a dedicated page listing out all the domains they’ve handed over to the feds.

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Companies: bodog, verisign

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Comments on “US Government Admits It Has Seized Hundreds Of Domains Registered Outside The US”

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39 Comments
Another AC says:

Re:

Sort of.

A dot com is simply a name, not property anyone can really own. The point of registering it is so that it can be globally unique, and the register happens to often reside in the U.S.

To me the problem here is not that the U.S. is ‘stealing’ domains or ‘taking property’ (since I don’t believe they truly are here), it’s that the U.S. has suddenly decided to be a giant dick to everyone and go against the commonly accepted rules that every nation (including the U.S.!) had agreed upon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Correction – all they own is a global database of .com domains.

If I want to direct a specific .com domain to a completely different IP address on my own network, and/or host a specific .com on a server of my choosing, I have the ability to do so without any Verisign-operated DNS or registrar involved.

Ultimately, the only reason we have registrars at all is to maintain a centralized, sane database of domain “ownership”. Once this centralized database becomes insane (read: governments seeking to control it in a way that goes against the grain of the internet as a whole), they will cease to become relevant.

This is why governments worldwide are making a huge mistake – all they’re doing is driving DNS resolution underground and essentially removing it from the existing “powers” that control it in a centralized fashion.

I have complete control over DNS resolution on my own network, and I can redirect any domain to any server I wish (including my own internal servers, or none at all).

Another AC says:

Re:

‘Controlling’ and ‘Owning’ something are 2 different things, I think you are confusing the two.

I didn’t say the registrar isn’t subject to U.S. Law, I said the U.S. is being a giant dick. They are asking Verisign to help them remove items from the registry and and Verisign is obliging despite no charges, no adversarial hearing, and not even any notification before they do it.

Whether they are within their rights to ask or not, they are being a giant dick doing it in this way.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Instead of ACTA

We should really be drafting a treaty to place top-level registrars under international jurisdiction. Then we could establish national registrars that lease from the international registrar. When a webhost establishes a site, they would be able to choose a single national register (as per their nations laws) and have that registrar granted jurisdiction over that domain name.

This would be the simplest way to establish clear jurisdictional boundaries on a web site. If you don’t want to face extradition for the laws of another country, you just don’t register through that country.

You’d probably need to exclude the USTR from negotiations until after everyone else had already ratified it though. Of course, you just need to put it in a public place and the USTR is unlikely to realize it exists! As a bonus, the citizenry and Congress of the US would still be able to be involved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Sorry, you need to learn a bit about the internet, because your claims are technically correct but lacking connection.

Your .com exists as a result of Verisign. If Verisign pulls the plug, the domain disappears, no matter what else you do with it. You can point all you want, nobody will get there because your domain will not be in the zone files at all.

“Ultimately, the only reason we have registrars at all is to maintain a centralized, sane database of domain “ownership”. “

No, the idea is that you have a single source for dot whatever domains. You avoid duplication (ie, you don’t have different .COM domains in different countries… can you imagine if techdirt.com in england went to BPI?). It’s the body that not only has a database of domains, but regulates disputes and assures that there is only one .COM out there.

What you can do LOCALLY with DNS (or your windows HOSTS file) is not particularly relevant. Further, if larger groups decided to ignore the zone files and run their own variations of .COM, the internet would be broken, way worse than anything SOPA could have done.

It’s just a fail from end to end.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re:

Actually, if running your own DNS server becomes commonplace, everyone can route wherever they like. Or what if an Icelandic site decides they are going to start running a “global” DNS without repressive governments tinkering with it, and someone makes a “FixInternet” program that runs on your computer and changes your DNS settings to that provider?

Suddenly, all this work to block everything goes down the tubes.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

I think that the what the AC was saying is not at odds with what you’re saying.

He was making the point that these actions by the US will inevitably lead to a balkanized DNS system because people will stop using the official one and start using privately-run ones.

The US is being incredibly shortsighted in its actions here. It is changing the DNS system from the neutral database it’s supposed to be (like a phone book) to one that is edited according to political whims. That dramatically reduces the ability to trust and rely on it, which, in effect, means that it breaks it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“He was making the point that these actions by the US will inevitably lead to a balkanized DNS system because people will stop using the official one and start using privately-run ones.”

The cure is worse than the cause, IMHO – and this is EXACTLY the type of thing that everyone bitched about over SOPA.

Is it so weird that SOPA was going to “break the internet”, and now there is a suggesting that breaking the internet is the best way? Want to talk about man in the middle attacks?

It’s stupid at a level that is almost undeniable, even by Mike and Marcus.

John Thacker (profile) says:

Here’s the press release from ICE bragging about this, and the IPR Center in general.

I don’t think that they did anything like this prior to 2010. The Bush Administration had some anti-porn prosecutions by the FBI, but didn’t have the anti-counterfeit goods, anti-piracy, IP, and anti-gambling prosecutions we’ve seen from the Obama Administration.

Oh well, I guess this is the Change people were voting for.

Good thing for the Obama Administration that they don’t have to worry about any of their loyal voters actually voting against them for this. (Same reason why Democrats didn’t change votes on SOPA or PIPA the way that the Republicans did.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Of course what i can do on my end isn’t relevant, until I start sharing my DNS server with other people, and they start using it as well.

Then it doesn’t matter fuck-all what you and verisign think – other people can request any .com I put in my DNS records, and it will go to the server I specify.

I’m glad you believe I don’t know how the internet works… I on the other hand am certain that you don’t have the faintest clue where shit is headed.

Anonymous Coward says:

The internet should be considered broken at this point. bodog had nothing to do with the US, it couldn’t even be accessed by US users, but the US decided to stuff their laws down our throats by using the fact that verisign is in the US.

The rest of us need to start looking for ways to route around the problem. Fragmentation would be bad but a best case scenario would be an internationally controlled root DNS system separate from the US, so in effect there would be a US internet, and a separate ‘global’ internet.

It would reduce the fragmentation down to 2, and leave the rest of us with a system the same as what we have now. Anything else would create a security nightmare, and leave everyone open to MITM attacks.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

The cure is worse than the cause, IMHO – and this is EXACTLY the type of thing that everyone bitched about over SOPA.

This isn’t a cure, and nobody wants to see it happen. Yes, it is very much like one of the prime problems with SOPA.

If you’re hearing people advocate this, then you’re not hearing what we’re saying. We’re saying that this will be the inevitable result of the US’ behavior, not that it’s a good thing.

Look at it from the user’s point of view: the US will put us in a position where we can either have a DNS system broken by politics, or a DNS system broken in a way that still allows at least some of the main benefits of it to exist. Either way, it would be the US that broke it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Ultimately, I’m going to trust my own DNS server far more than Verisign’s – and I’m sure my friends will as well.

You seem to believe that somehow a government-controlled system is going to win out in the long run – I think you’ll find that it will be quite the opposite.

With technologies like DNSSEC becoming more prevalent, the only solutions that will win are the ones that don’t get fucked with – and that includes the government.

Bergman (profile) says:

I’ve often wondered where the dividing line is in international law when it comes to things like this.

For example the U.S. Coast Guard seizes a foreign-flagged ship in international waters, confiscates the cargo and arrests the crew. How is it different, legally speaking, from the Shores of Tripoli incident the U.S. Marines still sing about? After all, what the pirates in that sung-of incident were doing wasn’t illegal in their home nations.

Where is the line drawn?

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re:

Wow you really have no idea about network protocols or how DNS works do you.

All it is is a linked list placed in a central repository FOR CONVENIENCE ONLY that states if someone types. blahblah.com in their browser that blahblah.com gets sent to 127.0.0.1 or whatever actual IP number it is owned by somewhere in the world (or on the private intranet that the person is on),

Any DNS server can nominate that typing blahblah.com can go to ANY ip address they so desire. You can even make a url called blahblah.ihatetheusgovt and still send it somewhere.

The URL ending in .com is for HUMAN READABILITY sake. Nothing more or less! since .com domains are NOT for what they are supposed to be for “commercial activity only”

What everyone is trying to get across to you is that with the USG acting as Judge/jury/Starchamber on what they consider they control, all this will do is make the rest of the world say . WTF! Why are we allowing this, Governments are already looking at this as a sovereignty issue and looking at ways to stop it. Private Orgs are looking at OpenDNS or high end Darknet systems.

All the USG is going to do is make the US a walled isolationist country not only on the Internet but physically as well.

Dave Zan (user link) says:

Turning to VeriSign to shut down a .com with a non-U.S. registrar isn’t indeed new. What some of you might find shocking is that a private party has likewise served a court order on VeriSign to lock out a non-U.S. registrar. Look up online something like “Dell Computer Verisign BelgiumDomains”.

As others said: as long as the .com Registry remains in Virginia, it’s bound to follow any applicable U.S. law. Even if the Registry is in another country, though, it’s still likewise bound by any applicable law in that country.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

It's who governs the domain exstension that matters

There was something floating around Google+ about this the other day. The article stated that the US uses the excuse they govern domain names with the extensions .com, .org, .gov, .edu, .net and a few others as they were created with the original ARPANET and Internet.

Personally I think they’re on legally shaky ground there and would probably lose in court if that reasoning was used. In the UK I can buy a .com domain from a UK based registrar. I can also buy an American car from a UK based dealership.

Now if the dealership was caught selling ringers I think it would be highly doubtful the US authorities would be interested much less come storming over here asserting some sort of dubious authority and start confiscating cars. So why is supposed IP treated differently?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's who governs the domain exstension that matters

“So why is supposed IP treated differently?”
Well it isn’t IP for starts but it’s probably because it’s an ongoing service and not property.
If a country is stupid enough to treat a DNS service as being ever so remotely involved in supposed crimes and pass laws that allow it to compel the registrar to cease a service on their request then legally they’re fine, even if history will mark them down as morons.

nasch (profile) says:

Instead of ACTA

The USTR, being a lobbying group, has no business having access to treaty negotiations anyhow.

“The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is the United States government agency responsible for developing and recommending United States trade policy to the president of the United States, conducting trade negotiations at bilateral and multilateral levels, and coordinating trade policy within the government through the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) and Trade Policy Review Group (TPRG).”

It is a part of the US executive branch, not a lobbying group.

marcmail (profile) says:

two faced

its clear to me that this is all really two faced, we know that the US government and large organizations are closing down bit torrent sites, file and video sharing services, so that kinda ties in with the snatching of domain names, it also ties in with controlling and monitoring the internet. making sure everything is vetted, I mean freedom of speech wasn’t that removed from the constitution? Where the other face comes from is the financial world, totally de regulated and as I write this the biggest legal robbery of the social system. we need regulation in the finance world. we need reporting of wrong doing on domains so we can search and find out who and why they were snatched. lets make it possible for users to vote on these things, by empowering people we can get somewhere thats a better place than here

Overcast (profile) says:

lets make it possible for users to vote on these things, by empowering people we can get somewhere thats a better place than here

Just about anyone, other than a tyrant making decisions would be preferable to the ‘lawmakers’ we have now.

Lawmakers that don’t bother to follow the laws they put in place… makes a lot of sense… to a moron on crack. Once the ‘rule of law’ is tossed out the door, all the laws in the world are meaningless. If the government doesn’t have to follow it’s own laws – why do we?

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