Uk Internet Registrars Get Authority to Block Sites for Alleged Criminal Activity

According to a piece on Out-Law.Com, Nominet, the UK domain administrator, is allowing domain registrars for domains to shut down web sites if there are credible allegations of criminal activity on those sites.

This is not supposed to happen with allegations of civil wrongs, such as copyright infringement (though if infringement is an offence under the Copyright Act, does that count as criminal?).

Registrars are cautioned not to lock someone out of their domain on the allegation of a commercial or personal rival . . .

Apparently this policy has been developed in association with the police. Nominet itself closed down 1200 sites in December for illegal activity, but now wants to delegate at least the authority for those decisions. (It is interesting that among the ‘crimes’ listed to justify this direct closing was failing to supply goods to consumers who had ordered them. (Would that not be a civil rather that criminal problem, or would it depend on the intent of the non-supplier?)

No word in the article about remedies for those who see their web sites blocked though they are not engaging in criminal activity — or even for those who are but who would have preferred due process of law to judging and execution by a domain registrar. If Nominet or the registrar were not liable (would they be? should they be?), the person who alleged the criminal activity might be — or would that be an occasion of qualified privilege?

Canadian experience has been that taking down some web sites often sideswipe others — so blocking a server will affect all sites on the server. Maybe targeting the domain names would avoid that unpleasantness (not that anyone ever apologized to the folks whose sites were sideswiped, so far as I know).

Name owners will have 90 days to resolve the ‘investigation lock’ or they will lose their names.

So: is this a good idea to fight cybercrime? Should CIRA do the same for Canadian registrars? Would the Charter of rights enter into it at all, or would it be entirely a private action outside the scope of the Charter?

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