WASHINGTON - The Internet's regulatory authority said Wednesday that country-specific Web domains cannot be seized in court proceedings, as it sought to quash an effort to recover assets in terrorism-related lawsuits.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said it filed its argument in response to lawsuits by victims of acts of terror who were seeking to seize the Web domains of Iran, Syria and North Korea to collect on civil damage judgments - potentially shutting down Internet access in the countries.
The response came in petitions filed by victims of terror and family members of those who have been injured or killed in attacks believed to be sponsored by the countries, and seeking to seize the so-called "country code top level domains," such as .ir for Iran, .sy for Syria and .kp for North Korea.
ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey said in a statement that these domains are not assets which can be seized but "part of a single, global interoperable Internet which ICANN serves to help maintain."
He added that these domains "are not property, and are not 'owned' or 'possessed' by anyone including ICANN, and therefore cannot be seized in a lawsuit." ICANN filed its response Tuesday in federal court after being served with orders to recover assets from those three countries from plaintiffs who won lawsuits against Iran, Syria and North Korea.
If the recovery efforts succeed, they could allow the victims to take over the domains and potentially shut down all Internet access in the three countries.