UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

Summary: If you thought the Patriot Act 'debacle' was one-sided, with U.S. authorities striking at the heart of Europe, UK authorities can hit back just as hard.

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A UK law enforcement agency has shut down a popular music blog in the style of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security domain name seizure.

Update: Confirmed by SOCA: "Yep, we did that," according to a spokesperson.

As TechDirt noted, the process for UK law enforcement taking down a .co.uk website was far easier than that of how the U.S. does and continues to do so. In many cases, the courts were bypassed and Nominet was asked directly to take down the sites.

The worrying factor here is that while the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and other police forces have the right to ask Nominet, the registrar for .co.uk domain names, the RnBXclusive blog in question was running from a .com domain name, seemingly outside of British jurisdiction.

If you try to access the site, users are warned of severe penalties in a splash page that appears even more daunting than that of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pages that file-sharing sites often succumb to.

Rackspace hosted the content in question, and its domain was registered with GoDaddy; both are U.S. companies.

In speaking to GoDaddy, a spokesperson confirmed that the company had a "presence" in the UK. Companies House, the UK's business registrar, says that has a registered office in London. It also shows that Rackspace also has a UK office based near London outside of its Texas-based headquarters.

But how does UK law enforcement have the right to extraterritorially seize a domain that belongs to the United States? That question alone has most others completely baffled.

Because of their UK presence, it means the parent companies are tied between complying with U.S. law, and their wholly-owned subsidiaries in the UK and Europe are tied by European laws and localised legislation.

On a practical level, if UK law enforcement request the takedown of a domain outside of its jurisdiction, the UK subsidiary can be forced to pass on the request to its U.S. parent company. From there, the U.S. parent must comply with UK law as it could face lawsuits and other legal nasties in the region. As far as I can see here --- and I'm no lawyer, but I have made enquires --- there is no conflicting U.S. law making the UK request more difficult to avoid.

Once again, the issue falls down to jurisdiction. Forgive me for banging on about it again, but this is exactly why the Patriot Act has such a damaging effect on European businesses, consumers, and even governments.

It's strange, after two years of researching the Patriot Act; it's somewhat gratifying to see European authorities strike back. I'm oddly proud, yet equally horrified. At least we now know it goes both ways.

But before you worry that SOCA is watching your every move, TechDirt says that it is merely an "exaggeration", adding that, "while it may be able to monitor certain transactions, it seems to be implying that it's watching your every move."

Image source: SOCA/ZDNet.

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7 comments
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  • Odd. I Don't see this as striking back

    or whatever What I see is the courts were bypassed and Nominet was asked directly to take down the sites. What else will the UK bypass to get what they want?

    Alot of the stuff that I see happening over in the UK make the Patriot Act read like a minor annoyance.
    William Farrel
  • It's a common myth that European nations have more freedom than

    the United States.
    baggins_z
  • RE: UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

    What you don't answer, is where the site was registered.

    The "official" TLD for American sites is .com.us.

    Anybody, in pretty much any country, can register a .com - I have a couple registered through the German Denic authority.

    I'm with you on the rest of the story, but if the site was registered through Nominet, why shouldn't they be the ones to take it down, IF presented with a court order.

    The slapdash methodology, of bypassing the courts is 100% wrong.
    wright_is
  • RE: UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

    In the age of the Internet and of multinational companies the world will necessarily see Governments attempting to assert extraterritorial jurisdiction. After all, the actual legal dispute in play here is between multinational entities - music companies, GoDaddy, et.al. While individual down loaders may feel a lot of righteous (or unrighteous) outrage, they are not the direct participants in the subject action. <br><br>What we are seeing play out here is the development of 'world government' of 'world companies'. A lot of people - I am one of them - are not awfully comfortable with the idea of a world government because it entails subjecting ourselves to some new authority over which we have only limited control. The problem, the rub here is that the international character of very many companies demands increasingly sophisticated world governance as more and more of our daily commerce crosses national boarders...
    z2217
  • Clarify please

    "the U.S. parent must comply with UK law as it could face lawsuits and other legal nasties in the region"

    In what region, the US or UK?
    HollywoodDog
    • RE: UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

      @HollywoodDog In the UK. If the US parent, for example, takes personal data from the UK without informing those affected and getting written permission to export the data outside the EU, they will be open to prosecution in the UK (through their UK subsidiary).

      The same goes for non-US companies with offices in the USA, they have to comply with local US laws as well.

      That is why, for example, Google & Motorola have to get their merger approved not only in the USA, but also in Europe, China and a few other countries.
      wright_is
  • RE: UK authorities take down a U.S. domain: Could it happen to you?

    This is EXACTLY why laws in the US like this should never be passed. I don't begrudge the IP owner their money but far reaching and unrestricted laws like this are the first step towards total government control....
    smashandgrab