Germany Following Kentucky’s Example?
December 23, 2008 (InfoPowa News) — Mainly German reports over the weekend raise the alarming prospect that the Internet is under further assault — this time from German authorities. A major furor still rages over the recent attempt by the state of Kentucky in the United States to confiscate global online gambling domain names, and if the current reports from Germany at www.heise.de are true, it would appear that another net neutrality dispute is about to surface.
The German language reports claim that a German politician, Juergen Buessow of the NRW, has succeeded in getting two gambling domains transferred to the government by court order. The domains are bet3000.com — a German/English language sportsbook owned by the International Betting Association Ltd operating out of Gibraltar — and tippen4you.com, which appears to be an informational rather than a gambling website per se.
Both domains were apparently transferred to Buessow personally, but while bet3000.com has been given back to the original owners pending a resolution of the issue, tippen4you.com is still under government control, having been seized in October this year and re-registered to Buessow at Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf. Buessow is apparently no stranger to Internet controversy, having been previously involved in censorship actions targeting neo-Nazi and phishing sites by ordering ISPs to block the IP addresses.
The story also surfaced on the ICANN site http://www.atlarge.icann.org/en/node/2199, where on December 3rd it was flagged by a German poster, who opined that the official responsible for the confiscation appeared to prefer taking over the domain rather than requesting international administrative assistance.
"My question is: Does the ICANN allow registrars to change the holder instead of setting the domain on 'hold' in such a situation?" he wrote.
Lutz Donnerhacke responded, saying: "I could say a lot about these situations, mostly not good. The Internet community is supposed to be self regulating. It simply does not happen and registrars are many times the first ones to ask for LEA interference.
"We need to ask why this happened, the background etc. Remember, at the end of the day, a registrar is not above the law, as also stipulated in the RAA despite what some people tend to think (or even some registrars themselves).
He went on to quote Go Daddy, registrar for many international domain names, which has said that it is more than happy to quickly comply with any court-issued order or official request by law enforcement (whose burden it is to determine the existence of illegal activities).
"We regularly work with courts and law enforcement from the local to the international level. As a result, we would recommend you seek an injunction from a court as the most efficient way to handle [this sort of] situation."
Having done some research, Donnerhacke advised that the bet3000.com domain name was on "hold" from December 2nd. Regarding the legitimacy of these actions, Donnerhacke advised this would depend on the circumstances surrounding the issue.
Another poster observed that the domain was not listed at the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority at http://www.gra.gi/index.php?article=135&topic=licences§ion=licences&., with no trace of such a licence on search engine or like caches, although the same company had a license for http://www.onextwo.com/.
"The registrar is in Germany, like the original billing contact and where it appears enforcement action was taken," he continued. "[It] seems bet3000.com was previously known as bet3000.de — which shows a German affiliation, now suspended by German LEA?
"The gambling laws of Gibraltar are here: http://www.gra.gi/sites/*gambling*/downloads/42/*gambling*%20ord%202005….
"The accountability issue on the Internet etc is a big mess quite frankly. Many big Internet players chanting the 'self governance' mantra are the same players tending to use LEA and court orders many times to frustrate processes intended to protect the public. As such strange things do tend to happen, not only harming the bad actors, but many innocents in the process.
"However, in this case no background information is known, so it is virtually impossible to make any form of and educated guess."
The Kentucky situation again came up in discussion, where John Levine, famed author of "The Internet for Dummies" observed:
"There is a similar case in Kentucky in the U.S. in which the state claims that a long list of gambling domains are operating illegally in Kentucky, and wants to take over all those domains. But none of them have any operations in Kentucky, and most of them have no operations anywhere in the U.S. The state is clearly completely wrong, but the judge is proceeding cautiously, since it is rare for a state to file such a completely meritless suit."