Ridiculously Stupid: 4 State Attorneys General File Totally Bogus Lawsuit Against Internet Transition
from the make-it-stop dept
Okay, this is really dumb. What is it about state attorneys general making totally bullshit claims? It seems to happen with fairly consistent frequency. The latest is that four state AGs (from Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma and Nevada) have filed a lawsuit to stop the IANA transition. If you don’t recall, we’ve written about this a bunch. A bunch of people are up in arms over something they don’t seem to understand. The IANA transition is a good thing. It’s not the US government handing over the internet to Russia and China as you may have heard. It’s the Commerce Department severing an almost entirely symbolic link between it and a very specific internet governance capability concerning top level domains. And it’s important to complete the transition because other countries (including Russia and China) keep pointing to this symbolic link as a reason for why they should have more say in internet governance. Getting rid of the link keeps the internet functioning as it has for decades — and takes away a weapon from Russia and China. More importantly, going back on the transition now actually gives even more ammo to Russia and China, allowing them to point to unilateral actions by the US gov’t to block a process that everyone had agreed upon earlier.
Anyway, to the actual lawsuit. It’s dumb. It’s really dumb. If you live in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma or Nevada, you should be embarrassed for your Attorneys General. Elect better ones next time, please. First of all, they have no standing whatsoever to file this lawsuit. The IANA/top level domain system is not those states’ property. They have no claim here other than “HEY LOOK! POLITICAL FOOTBALL THAT WE CAN GRANDSTAND OVER!” That does not give them standing. The best they can come up with for claiming standing is… uh… “hey, we have some websites.” No, really.
Plaintiffs operate multiple websites, including those that use the .gov and .com generic top level domains, to conduct their business and communicate with their citizens.
Yeah. That’s not enough to get standing here, buckos. Also, in filing a lawsuit they don’t allege any actual harms. That’s kind of a big no no when filing a lawsuit. Instead, they sorta maybe kinda speculate that maybe possibly there could (sorta, maybe) be some (possible, maybe, not really) harm in the theoretical future. Maybe.
Second, the entire crux of the lawsuit is that the authoritative root zone file and the internet domain name system itself are somehow “property” of the federal government, and that this transition is, in effect, the giving away of government property without an act of Congress, violating the Property Clause of the Constitution. Except, as we just discussed recently, the Government Accountability Office studied this issue earlier this month and came to the conclusion that “nope, it’s not property.” In case you missed it then:
It is unlikely that either the authoritative root zone file?the public ?address book? for the top level of the Internet domain name system?or the Internet domain name system as a whole, is U.S. Government property under Article IV. We did not identify any Government-held copyrights, patents, licenses, or other traditional intellectual property interests in either the root zone file or the domain name system. It also is doubtful that either would be considered property under common law principles, because no entity appears to have a right to their exclusive possession or use.
Others have walked through some of the other charges and find them all totally lacking. A judge is set to review this request for an injunction later today, and you never know how any individual judge might rule. So it’s entirely possible that this will muck up the timing of the transition, but long term, this filing is not just a joke, but it’s an embarrassment and a waste of taxpayer money in those four states.