The US Treasury Department confiscated the domain names of a British/Spanish travel agent who specializes in Hemingway tours of Cuba. Treasury claims that since Americans might have made reservations through the sites, that they were entitled to march into the domain registrar and take away a foreigner's business.
Susan Crawford, a visiting law professor at Yale and a leading authority on Internet law, said the fact that many large domain name registrars are based in the United States gives the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, control "over a great deal of speech – none of which may be actually hosted in the U.S., about the U.S. or conflicting with any U.S. rights."
"OFAC apparently has the power to order that this speech disappear," Professor Crawford said.
The law under which the Treasury Department is acting has an exemption, known as the Berman Amendment, which seeks to protect "information or informational materials." Mr. Marshall's Web sites, though ultimately commercial, would seem to qualify, and it is not clear why they appear on the list. Unlike Americans, who face significant restrictions on travel to Cuba, Europeans are free to go there, and many do. Charles S. Sims, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose in New York, said the Treasury Department might have gone too far in Mr. Marshall's case.