New Zealand wakes up to .com drama

In New Zealand, everyone has been worried about what the Megaupload seizure means for putting data on the cloud, and that the country has forgotten its other implications. However, last week, the country was certainly given the proverbial rocket up its jacksie, courtesy of Internet New Zealand.

In New Zealand, everyone has been worried about what the Megaupload seizure means for putting data on the cloud. However, last week, the country was certainly given the proverbial rocket up its jacksie, courtesy of Internet New Zealand.

We have long heard how customer files uploaded to Megaupload have been threatened with deletion after the German-born internet mogul and several co-accused were arrested at his New Zealand mansion at the behest of the FBI.

They have been charged with a variety of copyright, conspiracy and racketeering charges, for which Dotcom now faces an extradition hearing later in the year.

New Zealand has a prospering cloud sector, but businesses are increasingly concerned about potential risks to their data, especially if they store their data overseas, most notably in the US.

Unfortunately, the cloud is not the only arena that the US has a disproportionate amount of power, which led to last week's bombshell from Internet New Zealand. A couple of weeks ago, bodog.com was taken offline.

This website is based in Canada and is an online gambling website, but since online gambling is illegal in the US, its authorities felt they were entitled to take down the website.

As ZDNet Australia reported earlier this month, the use of dotcom websites can be beholden to the laws of the US, regardless where the websites might actually be based.

In New Zealand, we were unaware of this until last weekend when Internet New Zealand CEO Vikram Kumari raised the issue in a commentary that was posted on the National Business Review.

The bottom line? If you have a .com domain name, or other at-risk domain names like .net, you are subject to US domestic laws and jurisdiction.

This allows the US government to seize your website or even seek your extradition to the US to stand trial, based on allegations of breaking the country's laws. You're also at risk from mistakes and collateral damage.

Of course, since Internet New Zealand operates the .nz registration franchise, you might believe Kumar has a vested interest in favouring the use of local domain names as opposed to dotcoms.

But even so, some 34 per cent of New Zealand websites use an overseas domain, suggesting many New Zealand organisations potentially have a major problem.

Should the US have this much control? And should ICANN be thinking about this?

Unfortunately, ICANN already looks to have its hands full with other battles against the US government, suggesting that Uncle Sam is getting a bit power hungry with regards to global internet policies.

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, but I cannot see the US letting that happen, nor can I see the UN performing any better.

In the meantime, it comes down to us as individuals, or corporates, to put pressure on our governments to act. This includes defending our own citizens from extradition such as that the FBI is carrying out against Kim Dotcom and others.