ICANN responds to terrorism victims by claiming domain names are not property
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) has asked a D.C. Circuit Court to prevent the handover of country code top-level domain names (“ccTLD”) to plaintiffs of Ben Haim et al. v Islamic Republic of Iran et al., who have been trying to collect their $109 million damages award from Iran for the 1997 suicide bombing. The plaintiffs have had limited success with seizing Iranian assets located in the U.S., including cultural artifacts held by Harvard University and Chicago’s Field Museum, reports Arstechnica. They have recently obtained writs of attachment against ICANN, ordering it to “hold” the ccTLDs of Iran, Syria and North Korea for seizure, liquidation or transfer. According to the Volokh Conspiracy, ICANN has responded in its motion to quash these writs by claiming that “a ccTLD is not ‘property’; even if you think its property, it’s not property ‘belonging to’ the defendant governments; even if you think it’s property belonging to the defendant governments, it’s not within ICANN’s control; and even if you think it’s property belonging to the defendant governments that is within ICANN’s control, it’s not ‘located in the United States’ and therefore not subject to seizure by a U.S. federal court.” The Volokh Conspiracy notes that, although a ccTLD is like a label to a series of interlocking relationships, the theory that domain names are property has been successfully used by the Department of Homeland Security to seize websites allegedly involved in copyright infringement.