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America Forcing Its Laws on the World Sets Horrible Precedent

June 25, 2012

In case you're unaware, the United States Government seizes domain names of people and businesses all the time. They do it arguing those people are breaking the law, but take the domain names away even before there is a trial and before there is a guilty verdict. Three such domain seizures in recent months have been extremely questionable and, in my opinion, totally wrong. Worse, one guy is risk of being dragged to the United States to be thrown in jail for nothing more than links on his web site.

There was a gambling web site in Canada operating the domain name bodog.com. It's a Canadian company operating a business in Canada with the domain name registered in Canada. The federal government does not want you or me to gamble, so they took away the domain name by hijacking it. They did not have the authority to go to Canada to do their evil work, so they basically forced Verisign, the U.S. company that manages the .com names, to hand over the name. Along with that, the U.S. federal government indicted the man who owned the company.

The next case is a web site reportedly used to pirate movies and music called MegaUpload.com. Federal law allows service providers to be exempt from what users post on the Internet, as long as they comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This company did that, even though they are a foreign company. They are a Hong Kong-based company, with the owner/founder living in New Zealand. The U.S. worked with local authorities to raid the owner's house and take his money and property. They took away their servers and many users are complaining that they want their files back. One many even filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government to get his files back and the U.S. argued that it would "set a bad precedent". Meanwhile, the company is closed, the 40+ employees are out of work, and there is no evidence that I can see that they were not in compliance with the law that, remember, they’re not even obligated to follow since they are not a US company. Perhaps they did thrive on exchange of illegal content, but they followed the law, it seems.

The last case if even more difficult for me to understand. A college student in the UK named Richard O'Dwyer ran a web site called TVShack.net. On the site, users posted links to TV shows and movies around the Internet. This guy has never been to the U.S., did not do business in the U.S. (outside of the minority of users who were from the U.S.), did not have servers in the U.S., and had no copyrighted works on his web site, etc. Even so, the U.S. government is trying to force him to come to the U.S. to face trial and go to jail. Did you know that it is illegal to post a link on a web site to copyrighted works? It is not illegal in most countries, but it is here in the oppressive U.S. These kinds of laws rank right up there with taxing Americans on income they earn anywhere in the world, even if they don’t live in the U.S. or taxing people to give up their American citizenship.

The U.S. is nuts sometimes, and I don’t mind saying so. I love my country, but the politicians sometimes create laws to cater to big media companies and they stomp all over us little people. Just to put this into perspective, can you imagine facing jail time over something you say on the Internet that in your country is perfectly legal? If we follow America’s lead, then if any one of us were to say something negative about the Chinese government, for example, then we should all be picked up, carried to China, and put in jail or put to death. Sound reasonable to you? This is the real danger the U.S. is putting us all in by doing these things it is doing.

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is trying to stop the U.S. from bringing Richard O'Dwyer here to face trial over links on his web site. I encourage all of you to sign the petition to stop the U.S. Government. If you are American, I would also encourage you to write to your senators and congressmen to have them put an end to trying to force the world to comply with American laws. No country should ever be able to apply its laws to a person or business in another country, using a person’s words or a service they provide on the Internet as justification.

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Paul E. Jones

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