Homeland Security Working Hard To Make Sure No One Wants To Use .com Or .net Domains
(TECH DIRT) Remember Erik Barnett? He’s the deputy director of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit, who seems to have a way with words. He’s the guy who admitted that Homeland Security was censoring websites because entertainment companies asked them to. He’s also the guy who lied about whether or not anyone was challenging domain seizures when he knew those challenges were underway.
Now he’s out trying to defend the ridiculously short-sighted decision by the US government try to extradite Richard O’Dwyer from the UK, for running the site TVshack, despite it almost certainly being legal in the UK. According to Barnett, none of that seems to matter, because O’Dwyer was using a .net.
“The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That’s the key.”
The only necessary “nexus to the US” is a .com or .net web address for which Verisign acts as the official registry operator, he said.
That’s the key, but it’s also ridiculous and stupidly self-damaging for the US. On a jurisdictional basis, there are a variety of different factors that people use to determine what the proper jurisdiction is, and relying solely on the registry, thus making all .com and .net (among other) domains US property, is simply ridiculous. Almost anyone thinking about it would realize that if a site is run by someone in the UK and hosted on servers in the UK, it’s silly and counter-factual to claim that it’s really US property.
Of course, the end result of this will be to drive more and more foreigners away from using US domain names. None of this will do anything to stop infringement, which Barnett seems to think is his job. But it will harm American companies (the ones he claims he’s trying to help) by getting foreign internet users to stay away from them due to the liability that some hotshot in the Justice Department suddenly decides he or she wants to pull someone from their home and ship them to the US to face criminal charges on something that may have been completely legal where they’re from.