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Domain Name Seizure And Blocking "Ineffective"

Published March 27, 2011

The US-based Center for Democracy and Technology CDT believes USA legislation that would have a heavy reliance on domain names as an enforcement mechanism in the battle against illegal online activity would be a serious mistake.

Since the middle of last year, Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice have relied on civil forfeiture authority in the seizure of over 100 domain names. Late last year, COICA (Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act) legislation was tabled that would have expanded the practice. While that legislation hit a brick wall, CDT says similar bills are likely to introduced again.

CDT says while it supports the stamping out of illegal online activity such as the sale of copyright goods and large-scale copyright infringements, legislation along the lines of COICA would be largely ineffective and pose substantial risks.

The organisation says neither seizing or blocking a domain name removes the offending web site as there here are a number of ways a targeted site may still be accessed; for example, by the operators simply advertising the site's IP address. New domain names can also be easily registered and with the content still in place, the offending site can restart operations almost immediately.

CDT points out the risk of collateral damage in seizing a domain name, such as was the case earlier this year when authorities mistakenly seized 84,000 domains. A domain name is often attached to more than a single web site. Thousands of additional sites may be hosted on subdomains of the parent domain. Other services, such as email and instant messaging servers, may share an association with a domain name as well.

The Center for Democracy and Technology also believes  seizing and blocking of domain names would come with significant technical challenges that may negatively impact on the Internet's reliability, security, and performance. 

Further details and CDT's full list of concerns about domain seizure and blocking can be viewed here.

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