City of London Police told they can't just take away domains because Hollywood doesn't like them

The City of London is a curiosity; it's the financial district within London proper, and it has its own local government, which is elected by the banks and other corporations within the district. This (literally) corporate-run government then operates its own police force, separate from the Metropolitan Police, with sweeping powers.

The City of London Police recently gave themselves the power to seize domains that they believed were implicated in copyright violation, and started sending officious letters to domain registrars demanding that the domains be shut down. This was a purely extrajudicial, ad-hoc procedure -- in other words, the City of London Police were just making it up. The letters they sent had no force in law, cited no evidence from a court, and were unenforceable.

Nevertheless, a surprising number of registrars caved in to them, confiscating their customers' domains and blocking any attempt to transfer the domains to more responsible registrars. One of the worst offenders was the terrible Public Domain Registry, which blocked its customers from transferring domains to EasyDNS.

EasyDNS took Public Domain Registry to Verisign and then to the National Arbitration Forum, and, after a long process, prevailed. The arbitrator ruled that City of London Police don't have the power to take away domains just because some of their friends don't like them -- without due process and a court order, the City of London Police are just a bunch of random jerks barking orders that no one has to obey.

Bravo to EasyDNS for refusing to cave in, and for going to the wall for domain owners -- even those who aren't doing business with it.

The Registrar of Record argued that a basis for withholding the transfer of the domain names was their involvement in fraudulent activity. The Response stated that the three domain names “were involved in criminal distribution of copyrighted material directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law which serves as evidence of fraud” under the Transfer Policy. First, the Registrar of Record’s assertion is not correct as the London Police Request does not state that it has evidence of fraud. The Registrar of Record apparently contacted the London Police, as the Registrar states that the London Police have “agreed to answer any and all questions that might arise with regards to these domain names.”

Second, the reference to “evidence of fraud” in the Transfer Policy does not refer to fraudulent conduct by the holder of the domain name, but evidence of fraud with respect to the transfer of that domain name

City Of London Police Cannot Seize Domains Just Because Hollywood Says The Websites Are Infringers [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

(Image: City of London Police District, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 10260831@N02's photostream)