US Immigration and Customs threaten .com and .net domains

Friday 8 July 2011

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in the US have said they will actively target web sites that have .com and .net domain extensions that break US copyright law, regardless of where their servers are based.

Assistant deputy director of ICE, Erik Barnett has said all website owners, including British website owners could face extradition to the United States on piracy charges for breaking US copyright law even if their operation has no connection to America. “The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That”s the key.”

If the website ends in .com or .net and is involved in the spread of pirated TV or films made in the US then it can be legitimately targeted to be shut down with the owner facing prosecution. Usually .com and .net addresses are seen as global domain extensions, but they are all routed through Virginia based internet company Verisign and because of this, the ICE believe it gives them jurisdiction over servers based in foreign countries.

It is not just sites that illegally host or stream pirated material, ICE is also focusing on those that simply provide links to it elsewhere. There remains considerable doubt as to whether this is even illegal in Britain – the only such case to be heard before a British court, involving a site called TV-Links, was dismissed by a judge in February last year.

Barnett also said, “Without wishing to get into the particulars of any case, the general goal of law enforcement is to arrest and prosecute individuals who are committing crimes. That is our goal, our mission. The idea is to try to prosecute.”

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