Justice might well cry – this is just dastardly.
On the 15th of February, the California Northern District Court in San Francisco issued a permanent injunction against Dynadot, a Domain Name Registrar, to compel it to delete http://www.wikileaks.org from its list of URLs.
The order was granted Ex Parte with only limited notice – Counsel for wikileaks were given only a few hours notice by email – and in the end were unable to make any representations to the judge.
Furthermore they were required to prevent any ability to transfer the domain and to disclose all the information that they possessed about the domain name, including who it was registered too and all further information that they possessed about anyone who had accessed the management control panel on Dynadot to manage the domain.
The Plaintiffs, now widely recognised to be Bank Julius Baer – a bank that seems to have a list of celebrity clients and based in the Cayman Islands – was trying to prevent public access to certain documents hosted on Wikileaks that were leaked by one Rudolph Elmer, former Chief Operating Officer of the Bank. [Further Information about the underlying documents here]
I want to raise two points about the method that was chosen to shut down access to the Wikileaks.org site.
The broader points about the constitutionality of that decision, especially given America’s entrenched freedom of speech provisions, and their legal inability to exercise any jurisdiction over Wikileaks itself as an essentially stateless entity are issues I’m not qualified to comment on.
The first is that its rather pointless. As Wikileaks was quite aware that it would be subject to local censorship, it has a deluge of different locations worldwide that makes it accessible globally, even if one site is shut down. At this moment, Wikipedia lists:
as alternates to the .org site. Something tells me you’ll still be able to view all the content on Wikileaks for a good long time.
In addition deleting the DNS entry only gets you so far – it seems BJB’s lawyers couldn’t work around the fact that an IP address is different from the DNS look up – and so you can still access wikileaks.org at http://18.104.22.168.
Now I’m not too up on American Procedure but courts granting futile remedies ex-parte is pretty frowned upon regardless of the jurisdiction. In fact futility is a prime ground to refuse a remedy. As it should be. Courts shouldn’t be helping parties achieve nothing by forcing the other party to do work.
My second point is that the internet has a particular resistive property – the harder you push against it, the harder it pushes back and the more publicity a cause raises.
I doubt Bank Julius Baer wanted to be on the front page of Slashdot – yet that is where they found themselves. In addition they found themselves mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian. Mentioned because of their dubious action and the prominent allegation of money laundering and tax evasion.
Furthermore, people like me, individuals who never looked at Wikileaks before and who hadn’t heard of Bank Julius Baer before, have now heard of them both. And found, if the blogosphere reaction can be treated as representative, that the behaviour of the Court was both idiotic and futile.
Bank Julius Baer has found itself in the limelight far more then it would have liked. More people have found and read the information they are trying to suppress as a result of their behaviour.
As a result of their folly, I took the time to look at the leaked documents by their Ex-CEO. As a result of their folly, I investigated the surrounding links on Wikileaks and discovered a lot of interesting documents that I’ve never seen before. As a result of their folly, I’m writing a blog post and telling even more people.