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Country Code Top Level Domains Safe From Seizure

August 4, 2014 

ICANN says country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) cannot be considered "property," and as such, can't be attached by plaintiffs in a lawsuit.

Recently, parties affected by terrorism have been seeking to seize ccTLDs including .IR (Iran), .SY (Syria) and .KP (North Korea). 

However, last week the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) told a U.S. federal court in the District of Columbia that this is not legally possible.

"... country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD) are part of a single, global interoperable Internet which ICANN serves to help maintain," said John Jeffrey, ICANN's General Counsel and Secretary.

"ccTLD's are not property, and are not 'owned' or 'possessed' by anyone including ICANN, and therefore cannot be seized in a lawsuit."

The body likened a ccTLD extension to a postcode.

"A ccTLD is simply the provision of routing and administrative services for the domain names registered within that ccTLD; it is not property."

ICANN had been served with "writs of attachment" and subpoenas seeking information to help the plaintiffs seize the ccTLDs of the nations.

While ICANN says it sympathizes with what the plaintiffs may have endured, its role in the domain name system (DNS) "has nothing to do with any property of the countries involved".

Iran and Syria have refused to pay damages in the related lawsuits that amount to many hundreds of millions of dollars. In just one of the lawsuits to succeed in 2012, the victims' families were awarded over $300 million dollars in damages from the governments of Syria and Iran for what was said to be the countries' roles in an April 2006 terrorist attack in Israel.

Related documents can be viewed here.

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