Kentucky domains appeal hearing this week

Tomorrow, Friday 12 December, is a date keenly anticipated by the industry and media alike, hopeful that some sense will emerge from a Kentucky state government claim that it has the right to seize and control domain names belonging to online gambling operators around the world.

In a move so astonishing that it attracted criticism from legal and gaming specialists around the globe, a Kentucky county court judge ruled earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) that he had the jurisdiction to ride roughshod over Internet Neutrality, ordering domain registrars to hand over international domain names following a state government attempt to protect its land gambling interests.

Challenged on many levels and by a diversity of organisations ranging from registrars and operators to Freedom of the Internet bodies, the case was taken to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, most notably by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) which obtained a stay on the orders pending consideration by Kentucky Court of Appeals Judges Michael Caperton, Jeff Taylor, and Michelle Keller.

If allowed to go unchallenged, the actions of Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown and Governor Steve Beshear in attempted to pirate 141 global domains would seriously prejudice some of the largest and most reputable online gambling companies in the world, and set exceptionally dangerous precedents for any government seeking to control the Internet.

On Friday, starting mid-morning, the three-judge Court of Appeals panel will briefly convene to hear the petitions of iMEGA and the Interactive Gaming Council, speaking against the county court's decisions. All parties have already submitted written arguments to the judges for their consideration, hence the relatively brief court appearances. In addition the judges have been given the benefit of "friends of the court" or amicus briefings by other interested parties such as the Poker Players Alliance.

Hopefully, the three judges will reach a quick decision based on the mass of factual information and opinions with which the Appeal Court has been presented, although this is by no means certain and could take weeks or even months. A fast decision - especially a favourable one - would be preferred by an industry held in suspense for far too long already by the maverick actions of one state governor and his outsourced lawyers.

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