If you’re online, you’re in America, as far as US cops are concerned

Alex Hern reports on the uncomfortable fact that US law now seems to apply to everywhere online, no matter where you actually are


Last week, US cops seized the domain name of a Canadian gambling website, giving the unbelievable excuse that:

Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country.

To clarify: You can’t flout US law simply by not being in the country. It is hard to view this act as anything short of America claiming jurisdiction over the entire internet, whether or not the company is itself from the US.

As the easyDNS blog reports:

At the end of the day what has happened is that US law (in fact, Maryland state law) as been imposed on a .com domain operating outside the USA, which is the subtext we were very worried about when we commented on SOPA.

Even though SOPA is currently in limbo, the reality that US law can now be asserted over all domains registered under .com, .net, org, .biz and maybe .info (Afilias [the company which runs the .info domain] is headquartered in Ireland but operates out of the US).

This is no longer a doom-and-gloom theory by some guy in a tin foil hat. It just happened.

The ramifications of this are no less than chilling and every single organization branded or operating under .com, .net, .org, .biz etc needs to ask themselves about their vulnerability to the whims of US federal and state lawmakers (not exactly known their cluefulness nor even-handedness, especially with regard to matters of the internet).

The wave of sites which went dark in protest over the stop online piracy act (SOPA) included several British ones, including Liberal Conspiracy; but this latest move demonstrates that, at least online, what America wants, America gets.

See also:

How we sold off the right to protest to the one per centAlex Hern, November 3rd 2011

The privatisation of public space is harming our ability to protestAlex Hern, October 30th 2011

Despite Mosley’s court defeat, press freedom remains under attackMichael Harris, May 11th 2011

The CPS, judiciary and Yasmin Alibhai Brown just don’t get TwitterMichael Harris, November 13th 2010

New Bill will drag libel laws from the 19th century into the 21stMichael Harris, June 2nd 2010

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