Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel-Aviv, Israel and Robert Tolchin of New York representing a “group of American victims of terror and family members of those who have been injured or killed in attacks sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran have moved to attach and seize the internet licenses, contractual rights and domain names being provided by the United States to the extremist regime in Tehran”.
The families, who are unsatisfied with the American federal court judgments amounting to over a billion dollars against the Iranian government are seeking to own all the “top-level domain” (TLD) names provided by the US to Iran including the “.ir” TLD, the “ایران” TLD and all Internet Protocol (IP) addresses being used by the Iranian government and its agencies.
Domain names are important Internet addresses that are structured hierarchically. At the top of the hierarchy are the “top-level domain” (TLD) with attached suffixes such as “.com”,”.gov”, and “country-code” TLD’s (ccTLD’s) such as “.ru”, for Russia, “.ir”, for Iran, etc. As of now, court papers have been served to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN), a US Department of Commerce agency in Washington DC who administers the World Wide Web. ICANN authorizes countries to allocate TLD’s through licensing TLD’s to world governments who then appoint agents to sell the domain names in their country to individuals, businesses and organizations; making “.ir” a practical asset to Iran.
Under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (28 U.S.C. § 1610(g)), legislated to assist terror victims to collect judgments against foreign states abrogates Iran’s sovereign immunity for claims arising from acts of terrorism and subjects to attachment “the property of a foreign state…and the property of an agency or instrumentality of such a state, including property that is a separate juridical entity or is an interest held directly or indirectly in a separate juridical entity.”
Darshan-Leitner said, “This is the first time that terror victims have moved to seize the domain names, IPs and internet licenses of terrorism sponsoring states like Iran and are attempting to satisfy their court judgments. The Iranians must be shown that there is a steep price to be paid for their sponsorship of terrorism. In business & legal terms it is quite simple – we are owed money, and these assets are currency worth money…for years the Iranian government has refused to pay its judgments, thumbing its nose at these terror victims and the American court system. Our clients continue to suffer from the suicide bombing that Iran financed in Jerusalem nearly seventeen years ago. It is not our intention to shut down Iran’s internet usage, but we want what is rightfully due. If by seizing any funds earned from these licenses and contractual rights we can satisfy the judgments, we will have served our clients.”