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13.06.2014

Domain suspensions considered harmful

Registries are often asked to suspend domains linked to websites that the police considers illegal or companies and institutions belive to infringe on their intellectual rights.

The 26th of May 2014 torrentz.eu was suspended in response to a request by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit in the UK, without a court order. The operators of the website immediately registered, with different top-level domains, five new domains where the website was accessible. The original domain was then unsuspended briefly after it had been suspended.

Domains are used for much more than to address websites. Email is always sent using a domain, and domains are often used to connect users to their home and work networks. Domains can hardly be considered illegal any more than a street address. A street address is not illegal even if there is illegal activity in one apartment at the address. When a domain is suspended the website or the content itself is not, as became apparent when torrentz.eu was suspended. A suspension of a domain does not lead to a total blocking of the website it points to.

When domains are suspended, as described above, it does not only indignate the website's visitors, but it also disrupts email and other services, which are unrelated to the website, that the domain facilitates. Disruption of email communication and service, unrelated to the website that is meant to be closed, is utterly unnecessary and unacceptable in these instances. A suspension of a domain is in a way comparable to banning the use of an address of an apartment building depriving everyone at that particular address of their postal service. Additionally, the suspension of individual domains can affect other domains, specially in the situation when domain service is a registered subdomain.

Finally, it should be noted that when registries and registrars are made to suspend domains it can create negative publicity within the internet community, harming the top-level domain and reducing its credibility. It is difficult to rectify that sort of damage that easily could be avoided with increased awareness and proficiency of the technical workings of the internet.

A .is domain has never been shut down on court order in spite of several attempts.