bitcoin-judgeICANN has responded to a US court’s attempt to have control over the top level domains of Iran, Syria and North Korea handed over to victims of terrorism. Unsurprisingly their response is “uh… no.”

As CircleID explains, US law permits foreign government assets to be seized and paid as compensation to victims of state-sponsored terrorism. ICANN, however, argues that TLDs are not “property” which is “owned” by the countries in question. As such they can’t be handed over to private plaintiffs.

The full documents in the case are available on the ICANN site.   Here’s the full text of ICANN’s press release on the case:

Washington, DC… The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has told a U.S. federal court in the District of Columbia, that a country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) cannot be considered “property,” and thus cannot be attached by plaintiffs in a lawsuit, who are trying to obtain the assets of countries that they argued have supported terrorism.

“We filed a Motion to Quash in the US federal court today, to ensure that the court has the essential information about how the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) works. While we sympathize with what plaintiffs may have endured, ICANN‘s role in the domain name system has nothing to do with any property of the countries involved”, said John Jeffrey, ICANN‘s General Counsel and Secretary.

“We explained in our Motion to Quash, that country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD) are part of a single, global interoperable Internet which ICANN serves to help maintain.” Jeffrey further explained that “ccTLD‘s are not property, and are not ‘owned’ or ‘possessed’ by anyone including ICANN, and therefore cannot be seized in a lawsuit.”

ICANN‘s arguments were put forth when the victims of terrorism who had successfully won lawsuits against Iran, Syria and North Korea, sought to collect on those civil judgments. In their attempt to recover assets from these countries, the plaintiffs served ICANN with “writs of attachment” and subpoenas seeking information to help them seize the ccTLDs of those nations.

The ccTLDs (and related IP addresses) targeted by the plaintiffs include; .IR (Iran), .SY (Syria) and .KP (North Korea), as well as internationalized top-level domains in non-ASCII characters for Iran and Syria.