Kentucky’s plan to seize domain names belonging to online gambling sites took a giant step forward this week when a state court judge ordered transfer of 141 domain names to the state in 30 days unless the sites block access by Kentucky residents. The judge ruled that the domain itself is a gaming device under Kentucky law. Kentucky has targeted the online gaming industry “because it was illegal and drained money away from Kentucky’s legitimate gambling.”
Consider what transferring the domain names to the state means. A user anywhere in the world who types, say, wildjack.com into his web browser will be directed not to http://www.wildjack.co.uk/?bTag= but to a Kentucky .gov subdomain bearing notice that the site has been seized. It won’t matter whether online gaming is legal where the user resides–he will not be able to access the site. If Wildjack.com does not find a way to block Kentucky residents it will be forced out of business. Domain name seizure would become a highly effective method for local governments to force their law on the world.
That’s a bad precedent.