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EFF Urges Kentucky Judges to Uphold Block on Domain Name Seizure

April 20, 2009

EFF Urges Kentucky Judges to Uphold Block on Domain Name Seizure

Legal Battle Over Online Gambling Jeopardizes Free Speech

Frankfort, KY - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU of Kentucky) on Friday urged the Kentucky Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court ruling that blocked state officials from ordering out-of-state registrars to turn over control of over 100 overseas Internet domain names accused of violating state gambling laws.

The case began in September when the commonwealth of Kentucky convinced a state court judge to order the seizure of 141 domain names, claiming that the names were "gambling devices" banned under Kentucky law. A Kentucky appeals court later overturned the ruling, but state officials appealed the order. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of the appeals court ruling, EFF, CDT, and the ACLU of Kentucky argue that the commonwealth's attempt to regulate overseas websites is fatally flawed and, if successful, would violate the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the Due Process Clause.

"No state can order a domain name registrar over which it does not have jurisdiction to do anything. The commonwealth simply hasn't satisfied its burden here," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Without these important protections, no website would be safe from arbitrary decisions by foreign courts to silence online content that they don't like."

"Under Kentucky's legal theory, any government in the world would be able to seize any website domain name if the site has content that the government does not like," said John Morris, general counsel for CDT. "Such a theory, if upheld, would be devastating to free expression around the world."

EFF, CDT, and the ACLU of Kentucky were joined on the brief by the Media Access Project (MAP), the United States Internet Industry Association (USIIA), the Internet Commerce Coalition (ICC), and the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) -- all leading public interest and industry trade groups.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/ky_v_domainnames/KYSupremeCouramicusbrief.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/commonwealth-kentucky-v-141-internet-domain-names

Contact:

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

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