The far-reaching arm of the U.S. Department of Justice has extended over borders to arrogantly slap a legit Spanish business in its face and take away its primary revenue source without even the common courtesy of an advance notification.
The latest overnight domain name seizures swiftly executed by the ICE - Homeland Security Investigations based on a warrant issued by a New York District Court, is the best example of what's wrong with the Internet.
The batch of domains currently forced to display the logos of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Homeland Security Investigations and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, includes one which belongs to a foreign company with a website hosted outside the United States.
The list is quite long and includes domain names like atdhe.net, channelsurfing.net, firstrow.net or ilemi.com, associated with websites that link to sporting event streams published by people on Justin.tv and other places.
Isn't it ironic then that Justin.tv was not at all affected by this seizure and neither was Google, which provides the same links as those websites?
But one particular example stands out from the crowd, rojadirecta.org, a domain belonging to a Spanish company that operates a website just like the ones described above.
The history of Rojadirecta is quite interesting. According to TorrentFreak
, the company has fought a three-year long battle in Spanish courts to have its operation declared legal, twice.
Now, its domain name, the primary method for people to reach its business, was suddenly swept away by authorities from a foreign country with no advance warning or right of appeal.
"In our opinion the US authorities are completely despising the Spanish justice system and sovereignty
," Rojadirecta officer Igor Seoane told TorrentFreak. The company's representative also pointed out that this was not done at domain registrar level, because Go Daddy claims it did nothing.
This means it was either done from the .org registry, Virginia-based Public Interest Registry, or the California-based the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), both of which fall under U.S. laws.
The fact that U.S. authorities have discretionary power over all .com, .net and .org domains, because these generic TLDs are all administered by US-based organizations, is quite scary. However, what's even scarier is the US government actually taking advantage of this.
In May 2009, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, who now serves as European Commissioner for Justice and Vice-President of the European Commission, raised the issue of ICANN's accountability to a single government.
"ICANN decisions affect millions of citizens and companies in the world. The courts of California alone are certainly not best placed to handle legal challenges originating in all continents of the world,
" Mrs. Reding said. [pdf
If the Internet doesn't get a truly independent ICANN soon, the rest of the world might have to consider moving towards a distributed DNS root zone that can't be controlled by a single entity.