Attempt to collect on a $109M judgment hasn't gone very far in over a decade.
In a ruling from a Washington, DC, federal judge, it was seen that all of the country code Top-Level Domains could not possibly be transferred to collect Iranian state assets considering the new streak of terrorism since “they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law." In light of this, an eight-page memorandum opinion was published on Monday and in it Judge Royce Lamberth stood with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in determining that the above mentioned ccTLDs of North Korea, Syria, and Iran could not be made transferable to the plaintiffs.
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These plaintiffs under questions had sued as part of a terrorism lawsuit dating back over a decade and if this ruling had been the opposite case, the plaintiff could have managed to seize all .KP, .SY and .IR domain names.
The Rubin et al v. Islamic Republic of Iran et al case began in 1997 following an incident of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in which four Americans were injured and Hamas took full responsibility of that. The plaintiffs brought Iran into the scene since Iran has been standing next to Hamas in its resistance against Israel and it was held liable. However, it still remains unclear why the plaintiffs would also seek the Syrian and North Korean ccTLDs as part of this lawsuit.
A precedent was relied on from the case of Network Solutions v. Umbro Int'l Inc. which took place back in 2000 and was handled by the Virginia Supreme Court. A look into the ruling of this case was important since the federal courts hadn’t come in contact with such a case earlier on.
Judge Lamberth wrote:
"There, the court held that a domain could not be garnished by a judgment creditor under the relevant Virginia statute because it was 'inextricably bound' to the domain name services provided by the registry operator. The court further observed that allowing garnishment of a registry's services as part of garnishing a right to a domain name would mean that 'practically any service would be garnishable.' The court finds this reasoning persuasive as applied to District of Columbia attachment law as well. The ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domain names within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties. The Court cannot order plaintiffs' insertion into this arrangement."
The plaintiffs under question had received $109 million in damages in 2003 when they won the case by default as Iran failed to respond to the initial lawsuit. The main problem however has been the collection of the money; the only money that the plaintiffs have been able to collect was to wrangle the2005 sale of a $400,000 home in Lubbock, Texas, that was once owned by the former shah of Iran.
Though it has been a decade since the ruling was given, the plaintiffs haven’t stopped looking for ways to devour on whatever assets Iran has in the US. They also made an attempt to seize cultural artifacts held by Harvard University and Chicago’s Field Museum but failed.
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