The case has its roots in an unprecedented attempt by Governor Steve Beshear and his officials, aided by outsourced lawyers working on a contingency basis, to seize the international domain names of 141 mainly online gambling companies (see previous InfoPowa reports). The governor made no bones about the need to protect his state's extensive land gambling interests in going after Internet gambling operations.
The initial application by the state to seize the domains received a favourable decision from a state district court, but this was subsequently overturned by a majority on a three judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel.
Seen by many as an invasion of the integrity of the Internet, the issue caused a considerable international furore, which intensified when an apparently obdurate Beshear approved an appeal-against-the-appeal by his officials, who submitted the matter to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the matter in June this year.
This week it emerged that the Interactive Media & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council, which continue to fight off the Kentucky depredations, will have the support of four other concerned organisations. The Internet Commerce Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have all filed amicus 'friend of the court' briefs asking that the decision by the Court of Appeals holding that Internet casino domain names do not constitute gambling devices be upheld.
The Internet Commerce Association is on record as stating that it is opposed to the Kentucky action because "....it would have established an extremely dangerous precedent by which any government entity could claim jurisdiction over a domain name simply because its website could be viewed from within its borders, and then attempt to seize the domain name without advance notice or due process."
The ICA brief also references concerns regarding possible Kentucky legislative changes to the definition of "gaming devices," and to possible violations of the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause, the Federal Communications Decency Act, and jurisdictional limitations.
ICA president Jeremiah Johnston has been quoted as saying that if the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the Commonwealth's bid to seize and confiscate global domain names it would constitute a body blow to free speech and a considerable threat to the value of domain names.
"The ICA will continue to speak out and act in cases where the fundamental rights of domain name registrants are violated,” Johnston pledged.
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