Terrorism Victims Can’t Seize ccTLDs Of Countries For Supporting Terrorist Attacks: US Court

Victims of terrorism can’t seize the country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) of countries that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in US court judgements a US court ruled Tuesday, saying that ruling otherwise would threaten the stability of the internet, the National Law Journal reported.”The terror victims wanted to claim the country codes for Iran, Syria and North Korea (.ir, .sy and .kp, respectively) to satisfy judgments against those countries.””The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit … said the country codes couldn’t be seized to satisfy judgments under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Allowing the plaintiffs to control that data could undermine the functioning of the entire internet, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran. The court had authority to protect the interests of third parties, including the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which manages internet domain names worldwide, and had backing in the case from the U.S. Department of Justice.”A ruling that internet names belong to governments and that their ownership can be transferred could lead to ‘an Internet that is less stable, secure, and free,’ the DOJ lawyers argued in court papers.”In light of the plaintiffs’ recognition that ICANN’s control ‘stems only from the fact that the global community allows it to play that role’ … and considering that the delegation of the three defendant sovereigns’ [country code top-level domains] could likely antagonize the global community … we believe the doomsday scenario is not beyond imagining,” Henderson wrote.”Plaintiffs in a group of terrorism cases went to ICANN in June 2014 seeking to attach the country code domains for Iran, Syria and North Korea. ICANN went to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to quash those requests, writing that it had ‘great sympathy’ for the plaintiffs, but that the country codes couldn’t be used to satisfy the judgments. In November 2014, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth granted ICANN’s request, finding that the domain names were not ‘goods, chattels [or] credits’ under D.C. law that could be attached.”The D.C. Circuit side-stepped the D.C. law question. Instead, the court considered the plaintiffs’ ability to seize the country codes under the federal Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law shields foreign governments from litigation in U.S. courts, but there are exceptions, such as in terrorism cases.”Even assuming the domain names were subject to the terrorism exception and that Iran and the other countries had a financial interest in them, Henderson wrote, the court still could not allow the plaintiffs to seize them. There were ‘enormous third-party interests at stake,’ Henderson wrote. Giving the plaintiffs control of the country codes would bypass ICANN processes and potentially undercut ICANN’s role in maintaining internet stability, she said.To read the National Law Journal report in full, see: