Saskatchewan’s Calvin Ayre and two business associates are facing criminal charges in the US thanks to laws there which prohibit online gambling; an enterprise that has been illegal in the United States since 2006. Yet Ayre and his Bodog site got in trouble not because he was using an American web hosting company, but because his domain name was registered by an American registrar.
The action by the US federal court raises a serious concern over Internet freedom and international sovereignty. Understandably so, many in the Canadian technology sector are incensed that an American court would flex its muscles and press charges against a company not operating on their soil. It raises a very serious question about digital content, where it’s stored, and how it flows. If the case is allowed to stand it could set a chilling precedent for websites all over the world that might violate US standards. Mark Jeftovic, CEO of Toronto-based EasyDNS Technologies, agrees.
“You could be (based) outside the U.S. and you could be minding your own business and suddenly, some attorney-general in some U.S. state could say I don’t like what’s happening here and issue a take down order,” he said.
In this particular case the argument will ultimately come down to the domain name and how the laws in various countries apply to it. Should the case against Ayre proceed successfully, it’s quite likely that a large number of international websites using American domains like .com and .org will abandon those domains in favour of new domains in their own countries. According to Byron Holland of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, that reality is nothing new; it’s just getting more publicity.