.com beholden to Maryland law

.com beholden to Maryland law

Summary: A recent domain seizure has shown that the US Government doesn't need the Stop Online Piracy Act to do something about websites that contravene its laws and principles.


A recent domain seizure has shown that the US Government doesn't need the Stop Online Piracy Act to do something about websites that contravene its laws and principles.

The seizure notice
(Screenshot by Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet Australia)

This week, a federal grand jury in Maryland, US, indicted the founder of a company running online gaming site Bodog.com along with three other people for conducting a gambling business that is illegal in that state. It also accused them of arranging payment of winnings from bank accounts outside the country to US gamblers, as well as payments made to companies inside the US for site promotion.

The company itself is not based in the US; however, the US attorney behind the indictment, Rod Rosenstein, has said in a statement that just because a company operates overseas, it does not mean it can flout the laws of the state.

In prior cases when US law enforcement had encountered problems with sites operated from outside the US, it has turned to domain registrars such as GoDaddy in order to get the sites taken offline.

In this case, however, the domain registrar used was not based in the US. So the authorities bypassed the registrar and went instead to the US-based company that administrates the .com and .net top-level domains, Verisign. The US District Court in Maryland presented a seizure warrant to the company, saying that it was authorised to seize the domain name bodog.com and replace the gambling site with a seizure notice.

The notice is currently live on the bodog.com site, although the company's other betting sites (for example, bodog.co.uk) are still up and running.

Despite this, the fact that US law enforcement could impose its will on the domain of a company and its domain registrar, which are both based overseas, indicates how long the arm of the US law can be.

The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which aimed to stop consumers from accessing pirated content, was stymied partly because of a provision that provided powers for a similar measure, requiring internet service providers to block access to overseas websites accused of piracy.

This provision was removed from SOPA and the Bill itself was ultimately postponed after widespread online protest.

There have been moves to try and move this kind of control out of the sphere of the US, handing control of Domain Name Services to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union via a new UN treaty. This would arguably make the governance of the internet more international; however, companies like Google are not fans of the concept, saying that more regulation was risky and that the current governance system works well.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Browser, Government AU, Legal, Security

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Demonstrating why some countries want the control of the internet wrested from a US entity.

    If the US can do this for a legitimate reason, they can also do it for nefarious reasons.

    If a US company can block an overseas site and ISP, then any country should be able to do the same. Imagine what China would want banned, but this action has given them extra cause to push for egalitarisation of the internet.

    It really highlights the problem that there is no easy way to prevent criminal activity by legislation. Which means that we should probably be using the best non-easy way - addressing the reasons for the demand.

    But that would challenge a lot of the programming that people go through to become good little consumers (condoned addiction), and unnecessarilly competative (condoned arbitrary confrontation).

    Nah, the US doesn't want to do that, so they try to control the rest of the world, which makes them no better than China.
  • Heh. You make a valid argument, Patanjali. Look at how people reacted when countries like China, Libya and Egypt was misled by their political leaders. There were MASSIVE protests and outcries and they were labeled tyrants. But the US tries essentially the same strong-armed tactics... and that's just policy.

    Yes, the law can and should be used shady practices and wrong-doers to its fullest extent. But you must work within the law to bring them down, otherwise you are no better than the criminals you arrest.