Kentucky Supreme Court Overturns Ruling That Blocked State Seizure Of Gambling Domain Names

from the jurisdictional-mess dept

As you may recall, in a move that was blatantly designed to protect local gambling interests (no one denies this particular point), Kentucky passed a law allowing the governor to declare any gambling related website (even parked domains) "illegal gambling devices" and then to seize those domains. The governor moved to do so on over 100 domains -- none of which had anything to do with Kentucky whatsoever. Amazingly, a judge agreed that the governor had every right to seize these domain names, despite the lack of a Kentucky connection. It's not hard to see how problematic a ruling this is from a jurisdictional standpoint. Thankfully, the state's appeals court overturned the lower court ruling. Separately, a UK court ruled that Kentucky had no right to seize UK-based domains.

The state appealed the ruling in the appeals court, and many assumed that the Kentucky Supreme Court would agree with the basic logic of the appeals court. Instead Ragaboo alerts us to the news that the Kentucky Supreme Court has overturned the appeals court ruling, effectively allowing the state to seize the domain names again. The ruling focused on a technicality, rather than on the merits -- arguing that the Interactive Media and Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), two gaming associations who brought the lawsuit in the first place, had no standing in the case and could not bring the case in question.
"Instead of owners, operators, or registrants of the website domain names, the lawyers opposing the Commonwealth claimed to represent two types of entities: (1) the domain names themselves and (2) gaming trade association who profess to include as members registrants of the seized domains, though they have yet to reveal any of their identities."

The court even acknowledged that the lawyers on behalf of the associations made "numerous, compelling arguments endorsing the grant of the writ of prohibition," but that "(a)lthough all such arguments may have merit, none can even be considered unless presented by a party with standing."
Of course, it seems rather ironic that the issue here is standing, when you could just as easily ask what sort of standing the state of Kentucky has to seize a domain name based elsewhere? In the meantime, if any of the actual domain owners is willing to step forward, the case may be reheard -- and hopefully the Kentucky Supreme Court will rule against the state on the merits and the simple fact that seizing domain names that have nothing to do with Kentucky sets an incredibly dangerous precedent.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 3:44pm

    How exactly does some kentucky bureaucrat seize a domain name? I am interested in the physical mechanics of it.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 3:54pm


    He has a web cam scan him into the interwebs where he drives a motorcycle that leaves a brightly colored wall behind him as he drives. If he can trap the domain name inside this wall or force the domain name to crash into the wall, then he seizes control of that domain name.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    So, does this open the door to, say, a bankrupt nation "seizing" the domain under a conveniently passed local ordinance?

    Based on the text of the ruling, it wouldn't appear so, but I'm uncomfortable with the precedent this decision could be construed to set.

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

  4. identicon
    Nort, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Re:

    AWESOME description.

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

  5. icon
    Danny (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 4:00pm

    what's next?

    I am trying to understand what happens next. Lets say none of the domain owners steps forward.

    So, Kentucky goes to ICANN and demands the domain names?

    Won't ICANN simply say, "You don't have standing to demand domain names." And not give it to them.

    Would Kentucky have to sue in Federal Court to force action by ICANN? It is fairly likely no Federal court will support this sort of action by a State.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 4:12pm

    Next step is for China to seize and other US based government and military sites for the violation of promoting Democracy. By 2015 we can all be under a dictatorship, yay!

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

  7. icon
    william (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 4:26pm


    oh how the kentuckian (sp?) and the U.S. rue the day that happens...


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

  8. identicon
    Yorkster, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 8:23pm

    So let me get this straight. Kentucky, on behalf of a private party, has given itself the right to take any domain name it damn well pleases simply by claiming it's a "gambling domain?"


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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 9:03pm

    What do you expect ... it is Kentucky after all.

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

  10. icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), Mar 18th, 2010 @ 9:23pm

    Turnabout is Fair Play...

    Kentucky Supreme Court Allows State Seizure Of Privately Owned Domain Names, Private Citizens Seize Kentucky State Gambling Domain Names.

    I claim!

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

  11. identicon
    Jamie, Mar 19th, 2010 @ 7:04am

    I think I'm going to file a suit seizing the name "Kentucky".

    Because... why not? And why do we even consider them a real state? I mean, come on... Kentucky? It even sounds like the sort of place you'd only ever want to fly over.

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

  12. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 19th, 2010 @ 12:30pm


    The sun shines out of their butt, don't you know.

    So they can do whatever they want even if it makes not practical, legal or techonogical (not to mention moral) sense at all!



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

  13. identicon
    Aira Bongco, Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:37pm

    I think the Kentucky governor is way over his league here. In fact, this is becoming a concern to me. How can they believe that they have the authority to seize any type of gambling domain name even if it is not based on their territory. I mean, honestly, does this give them the right to seize any gambling domain in the world. I don't think so. And what about generic words or phrases like free lotto. Does this mean that this domain name is illegal too?

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

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