Early August 2016 U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit issued its decision in Weinstein vs. Iran, a case in which families of terror victims sought to have ICANN turn over control of Iran’s .IR ccTLD to plaintiffs. The unanimous decision of the three judge panel stated, “On ICANN’s motion, the district court quashed the writs, finding the data unattachable under District of Columbia (D.C.) law. We affirm the district court but on alternative grounds.”
In 2014, In an eight-page memorandum opinion , Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and found that the ccTLDs of North Korea, Syria, and Iran could not be transferred to the plaintiffs, who had sued as part of a terrorism lawsuit dating back over a decade. Had the judge ruled in the other direction, the plaintiff could have seized all .KP, .SY and .IR domain names.
The case, formally known as Rubin et al v. Islamic Republic of Iran et al, goes back to a 1997 suicide bombing that took place in Jerusalem. Four Americans were injured in the attack, for which Hamas claimed responsibility. Lawyers for nine US citizens injured in that attack sued and won a multimillion-dollar judgment in 2000 that they have been seeking to collect on.
While the plaintiffs could seek Supreme Court review of the decision, the Supreme Court would likely be unwilling to take the case given the rarity of the legal question it presented, and the lack of any split in Circuit Court decisions on it.
The operative portion of the decision states:
We assume without deciding that the ccTLDs the plaintiffs seek constitute “property” under the FSIA and, further, that the defendant sovereigns have some attachable ownership interest in them. Nonetheless, pursuant to the terrorist activity exception, the court has the “authority” to “prevent appropriately the impairment of an interest held by a person who is not liable in the action giving rise to a judgment” — i.e., we are expressly authorized to protect the interests of ICANN and other entities. 28 U.S.C. § 1610(g)(3). Because of the enormous third-party interests at stake — and because there is no way to execute on the plaintiffs’ judgments without impairing those interests — we cannot permit attachment.