If you’re a Canadian with a .com, .org or .net domain for your web site you may want to move to a .ca domain as soon as you can.
Why? On Feb 28th, Verisign, which acts as the central clearing house for all .com and .net domains worldwide – including yours – shuttered bodog.com on a “sealed charge” in a Maryland court, without prior notice and without actually convicting anyone attached to bodog.com of any crime.
“No problem,” you say to yourself “we don't offer gambling – why in the world would anyone care about us?”
Consider this quote from Erik Barnett, assistant deputy director at U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, regarding the successful Jan 13th copyright extradition ruling against Richard O'Dwyer, a 23-year-old U.K. Sheffield Hallam University student:
“The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That's the key.”
As the Guardian wrote: “The only necessary 'nexus to the U.S.' is a .com or .net web address for which (Delaware incorporated) Verisign acts as the official registry operator.”
Richard O'Dwyer's crime? He maintained tvshack.com – a site/blog listing links to other web sites offering downloads for English language TV and films. The reason he is going to be extradited is because the domain is registered as a .com, rather than a .co.uk.
So again, why is this important to you?
As the result of a charge against your .com/.org/.net domains, you become accountable to a U.S. Court by virtue of the fact that these top-level domains (TLD/DNS) are handled by U.S.-based Verisign and Public Interest Registry. Full stop.
Consider the potential where a competitor in South Dakota decides to question your trademark in that state because you lack a local business registration?
Indeed, what if your maple syrup customer's U.S. medical insurance provider decides to test the legal question that your product was the primary cause of diabetes claims in their state?
And because of Mr. O'Dwyer’s case, and now bodog.com, there is compelling precedent that you will have to defend any charge in any U.S. court in person, at your expense, regardless of what your passport or your articles of incorporation indicate.
That’s why you need to find out who handles the domain registration for your company. Be aware, you also need to perform due diligence and confirm your registrar is a wholly Canadian-owned business and confirm, in writing, what their liability/policy is regarding U.S.-only warrants regarding your domain.
Finally – and this is more annoying than anything else about this maddening development – you will need to seriously consider abandoning your .com/.org/.net, no placeholders and no forwarding, addresses.
Because as bodog.com found out, by virtue of simply owning a .com/.net property, you and I are now U.S. citizens in the eyes of their law.
Following a 20 year career pioneering digital publications, B2C/B2G/B2B e-commerce and high security mobile solutions both in Canada and abroad – Jon Blanchard spent the last 6 years as Webmaster with the Halifax Herald family of companies.