Domain Names are not subject to attachment

COUNTY CODE TOP-LEVEL DOMAIN (ccTLDs) ARE NOT PROPERTY SUBJECT TO ATTACHMENT

The law is very sparse on this subject and that the precedents are countable in fingers all over the world.  For a better appreciative, it is a need to be placed the back ground of the internet and domain name system before analyzing the law on this topic.

Any device connected to the Internet is indentified by a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address consisting of a series of numbers separated by periods. Since IP addresses is unmemorable the Domain System was created to allow the internet users to easily remember and find places on the internet and in such system IP addresses are given alphanumeric identifiers called domain names.

A domain name consists of a Top Level Domain (TLD) and second level domains within that TLD. The TLD is the series of characters that are to the right of last period in a domain name. For example, .com is the TLD for the domain name assigned to the commerce industry. A second level domain is the series of characters to the left of the last period in a domain name. To say, facebook is the second level domain in facebook.com. Second level domains are sub-divisions of TLDs and are registered with in the TLDs.

ccTLDs are a particular type of TLD which carry a two letter code indentifying a relationship to a particular country, like .in representing India. The ccTLDs are operated by managers for the respective country. National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is the manager for .in ccTLD.

Manager's duties include assignment of domain names, delegation of sub-domains and operation of name servers. Information about the names and locations of the various TLDs on the Internet is stored on the root zone file which is the authoritative listing of this information on the Internet.

Keeping in mind of the above, on the moment when a internet user types a domain name into the internet browser the corresponding webpage appears on the user's screen.   Thus, the Internet Domain Name System operates a something of a pyramid. The root zone file, at the top of the pyramid, contains information on the TLDs within the system and the location of the registries for those TLDs. Registries of TLDs, in turn, contain IP address information on domain names logged within that TLD, which ultimately leads computer, and its user, to the final Internet destination looked for.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit corporation that performs the Internet Assigned Numbers Authortiy (IANA) which functions under a contract with the Government of respective countries. Of relevance to this scenario, these IANA functions include managing the process of delegation and re-delegation of TLDs (including ccTLDs). This means ICANN is responsible for recommending the entities that shall perform the functions of ccTLD manager.  Domain Names are considered to be a valuable address of the business organizations.

Imbibing the value of domain names, (1) Shaul Stern, (2) Susan Weinstein, (3) Jenny Rubin, (4) Seth Charles Ben Haim against the Islamic Republic of Iran; Ruth Calderon-Cardona against Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mary Nell Wyatt against Syrian Arab Republic had obtained a set of substantial money decrees and pursuant to the same the decree holders had sought to attach and seize the defendants' property being the domain name from ICANN, the ccTLDs for Iran (.IR), Syria (.SY) and North Korea (.KP) allegedly in the possession of the ICANN and ICANN has moved to quash the notice of attachment before the District Court of Columbia and that the District Court of Columbia has passed an order in case No.1:00-cv-02602-RCL holding that the country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) names are not the properties subject to any attachment holding inter-alia that a ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties; the ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domain names; ccTLDs only have value because they are operated by ccTLD managers and because they are connected to computers around the world through the root zone and further holding that where the property is in the form of a contract right the decree holder does not step into the shoes of the judgment debtor and become a party to the contract.

There is little authority on the question of whether Internet domain names may be attached in satisfaction of decree. One of the cases out of few countable in fingers is Network Solutions, Inc. v. Umbro Int l, Inc., wherein the Virgina Supreme Court held that a domain name could not be garnished by a Decree Holder because it was "inextricably bound" to the domain name services provided by the registry operator and what ever the contractual rights the Judgment Debtor has in the domain names those right do not exist separate and apart from the services of the registry that make the domain names operational Internet addresses.

D.Saravanan, author is an Advocate at High Court, Madras and an international arbitrator.

Email: arbitratorsaravanan@gmail.com 

 

D Saravanan 
on 19 November 2014
Published in Others
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