opinion

Reading the Fine Print

Stephen Yagielowicz
Have you ever bought a product or service or joined an affiliate program, message board or organization and blindly checked the “I agree to your terms” box? If you’re like most webmasters, the answer is “yes.” Have you ever wondered what you’ve just agreed to? Perhaps you should…

There’s a discussion thread currently underway at GFY where a member related the story of his friend from Denmark that reportedly has a couple of hundred adult domain names registered through DirectNic – domain names that over the weekend were placed on hold suddenly and without warning.

The story goes that the domain owner sent an email to DirectNic asking what happened, to which the registrar reportedly replied, “We have determined that your domains are illegal under US federal law [U.S. v. Extreme Associates, Inc., 431 F.3d 150 C.A.3 (Pa.), 2005. December 08, 2005 (Approx. 12 pages)] and the state laws of a majority of the states of the Union, including Louisiana and Virginia.”

Admittedly, most of these .com and .net domain names dealt with scat, rape and bestiality, etc., yet the feeling was that since the sites were hosted overseas where this material is assumed to be legal, that US laws shouldn’t apply and that the registrar was not justified in killing them.

While I’m not going to get into the false belief that hosting your site overseas somehow provides you with legal protection when your site is available in the US, I will get into the provisions of DirectNic’s Terms of Service – provisions shared by most registrars – that essentially say that if your domain name contains terms denoting illegal material or your site contains illegal material, that they can discontinue their service – and when their service is providing your site with its domain name, that’s a really serious impediment to ongoing operations.

I don’t know enough about the case to comment further and won’t get into the ignorance displayed in many of the responses to this thread, but I will say that before you click on that little “I Agree” checkbox, you should read and understand the details of exactly what it is that you’re agreeing to. Failing to do so could see you out of business, overnight and without warning – or worse.

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