In late November, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, shut down over 80 domain names that hosted sites selling counterfeit goods or peddling illegal files of copyright material. On the heels of this crackdown, Torrentz.com, the second largest BitTorrent site on the Internet, has decided to permanently dump .COM for .EU. Now, when users type Torrentz.com into their address bars, they are automatically redirected to Torrentz.eu.
The motivation behind this type of TLD migration is the assumption that the U.S. government will not have the jurisdiction to shut down domains in non-U.S. TLDs. While issues of Internet jurisdiction are notoriously murky, the actions of Torrentz and similar sites prove that it is likely going to take more than a single government to meaningfully curb infringement online.
The Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate, is a bill that will authorize legal action against domain names that host sites engaged in trademark and copyright infringing activities. While the intentions behind the bill are sound, its scope could prove too limited to really make an impact on online infringements such as the sale of counterfeit goods.
If sites can simply switch to a new domain name to avoid being shut down, then the authors of the COICA bill and future legislation are going to have to start thinking bigger – all the way up to ICANN. As the central coordination body for the Internet’s addressing system, ICANN is the only organization with the capacity and authority to enforce this kind of crackdown on a global scale. In order to ensure that COICA, if passed, really packs a punch, the bill’s authors should consider finding a way to work with ICANN.