DNS: September 2008 Archives


September 23, 2008

[Terence] Spies alerted me to this story about the state of Kentucky trying to take control of 141 domain names in an effort to block Internet gambling:
FRANKFORT -- Kentucky is commandeering 141 domain names of Internet gambling sites in a novel legal move to crack down on the unregulated industry.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ordered the names transferred to the state last week, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday.

Sites affected include such names as caribbeangold.com and sportsbook.com.

If officials get their way at a Sept. 25 forfeiture hearing, the state will control the domain names and can ask Web registrars to block access to the sites, said Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown.

Putting aside for a moment one's opinion of trying to stop Internet gambling, this seems like a seriously problematic operating theory. Sportsbook isn't located in Kentucky (it seems to be based in Malta) and sportsbook.com is registered with Network Solutions, which is based in Herndon, VA. As far as I can tell, the only relationship that they have with Kentucky is that they let people from Kentucky gamble on their site. If we're operating on that basis, then what's to stop the city of Grano, North Dakota, population 9, from deciding that Google is violating some local ordinance and seizing google.com. Sure, maybe they're operating on some bogus pretext and Google will eventually prevail, but in the meantime all your searches turn up businesses in North Dakota. This doesn't really seem viable.

Of course, you could argue that Sportsbook could just not do business with everyone in Kentucky, but this is impractical for two reasons. First, geolocation technology isn't really good enough for Sportsbook to determine for absolute certain where every potential user is. Second, even if they could be sure, it's not really practical for every domain holder to know the laws of every potential jurisdiction their customers might come from—it's entirely possible I'm violating the laws of Grano right now.

If you want to actually have a working Internet, then, you really need to arrange matters so there's not a semi-infinite set of attackers who can trivially bring down anyone's domain.