Cuba-Related Websites Shutdown; Domains Taken

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In this morning’s New York Times, there’s an article about an English travel agent who owned several Cuba-related domain names which were shut down by his registrar eNom, due to their listing on the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). While owning and operating these websites on his own soil is legal, since they were being managed by eNom, a US-based domain registrar, eNom had to take possession of the domain names and essentially put the owner out of business.
While I am not going to debate the merits of this decision by the Treasury Department, I do think it is important for everyone to take a few moments and check to see where their domain registrar is located. Just a few months ago, a similar situation occurred with Internet gaming giant Bodog, whose domain names were taken and awarded to a litigant who filed suit in the US. While the situation was different then, it still shows that a US government decision or a ruling in a US court could potentially lead to losing domain names.
When doing business in another country, it is important to know that country’s laws related to your business.   Since many non-Americans who own domain names are doing business with American-based companies, it is important to know US law when it comes to domain names and online activities. If you should have any questions related to domain name law, I urge you to contact an attorney.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hmm those Governments – Individuals on behalf of their Nation decide what goes and what not – talk about Nazi Germany and Hitler – History is repeating itself – humanity has NOT learned anything from the past.

  2. Nice catch Elliot. This defines that ICANN will be under US control for some time to come, since the Treasury is flexing its muscle with ICANN’s 2009 review in sight. Something else to think about for those looking to use registrars in other countries. ICANN accredits them and in doing so has leverage over them. Point taken, ICANN is still under US influence.
    We need to take a stand here and support ICA and our free speech rights. If this continues, down the road I see a Supreme Court (civil rights) ruling. On a more positive note. I like the NY Times article reference on domain name power.
    That, Professor Crawford said, is a scandal. “The way we communicate these days is through domain names, and the Treasury Department should not be interfering with domain names just as it does not interfere with telecommunications lines.”

  3. Eilliot, since enom has suspended the domains, what happens next, so they own the domains now, does the Treasury department own them? And will the domains be dropped since the owners cannot pay the renewal fees?
    Interesting situation, huh?

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