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Government Seizing Domain Names

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Recently the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been seizing control of domain names in efforts to thwart online copyright infringement. So I guess the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America weren't getting results directly suing their customers, instead they're using their money to lease DHS to do their dirty work now.

So what they do is find domains hosting copyrighted (or other illegal) content and then get some judge who probably doesn't know what a domain name is sign a warrant to take it down. Once they have the warrant they skip over the heads of the registrar the name was leased through and go directly to Verisign, the company that controls the top level domain (.com and .net), and tell them to change the nameservers to ns1 and ns2.seizedservers.com. You can see the default landing page you'll see once your domain has been seized here: http://seizedservers.com/

domain seized

You might have noticed that they're not actually removing the infringing content from the web, it's still available using the IP address of the server hosting it. Many sites of seized domains have simply registered a new domain in a different top level, like .info or .org and are still operating. So it seems like the gov't has a deal with Verisign and not with the companies that run the other top level domains.

What is really scary is what happened a couple weeks or so ago. DHS found out child porn was being served from a subdomain of mooo.com. This domain is owned by the proprietor of afraid.org which hosts the DNS for many of my own websites, including this one. In typical "think of the children without doing any research" fashion, DHS seized mooo.com and redirected it to a landing page saying "this site hosts child porn". The problem is mooo.com and many of the domains over at afraid.org are shared. You can sign-up and register whateveryouwant.mooo.com to point to your website. Many people and businesses used this domain, 84000 sites to be almost exact. So when DHS seized it, they effectively accused 84000 people and businesses of disseminating child porn. Whoops!

Sure, it wasn't on purpose, but being accused of distributing child porn is a rather tough stain to remove and it totally sucks when your own government accidently does that to you.

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