Author Archive | nigel

Roaming banditry

David Snyder has had a bad experience with a disproportionately high bill while roaming. His report is at

1980s Dodge Ram Van Verizon

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Having read it, it seems to me that Verizon is trading in Europe. That is to say, it is selling data access to US subscribers to its service who are in Europe when they receive the service.

It also seems to me it may be likely that European legislation already provides remedies for this kind of behaviour by companies, dealing with consumers with bad faith.

Read what the UK’s Department of Businesshave to say about the Unfair Business Practices Directive particularly the wording which reads  ‘contrary to the requirement of good faith’.

What is especially interesting is that the European networks that Verizon uses to deliver the service to Verizon subscribers in Europe will charge approximately 0.1 eurocents per megabyte (that’s around €15 per gigabyte) to domestic consumers.

My VODAFONE.UK contract gives me 3 gB each month for ₤10.  I have a VODAFONE.DE data plan where the data costs are similar. Airtel-Vodafone in Guernsey and Jersey charges ₤0.01 per megabyte whch equates to ₤10 per gig. There seems to be a consensus here ..

So how much is Verizon really paying to the European network wholesale if European networks can make these charges retail and still make a profit?

I’d love to see someone take Verizon or another roaming bandit to court in an EU country where such services were delivered.

At some point what is within reasonable range of profit becomes consumer gouging. And while I happen to live in a territory, like the US, whose legal system honours the Victorian principles of freedom of contract, there has to be a limit. (Should we still expect illiterates to be bound when the back of their train ticket has a written notice saying that contractual terms are  available in written form upon applying at the railroad ticket office before departure?).



Poker domain seizures in .COM

Greg Mueller Full Tilt Poker Pro

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Last week a court in the USA seized control of the .COM domains belonging to several online poker sites, inlcuding Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

On the face of the registration records, these domain registration were owned by organisations outside the USA, although there seemed to be some suggestion that one or more of them may have been ultimately controlled by US citizens or residents.

On the one hand, it is entirely right that the courtroom is the right place for decisions like this. No excutive agency, or a law enforcement body, or even worse, domain vigilantes should have such powers.

And the face that these recent temporary seizures were done through a Court is actually good news.

Democratic countries have something called the Rule of Law which protects personal property (which the bundle of rights under a domain registration contract undoubtedly is) and it should take a court order to seize things.

On the other hand, it seems that removing something which in e-commerce terms is equivalent to both the brand and the shop window of a business, is fairly draconian, and should be resorted to in the most egregious of cases. The commercial harm that, if only for a short time, a notice is placed on a company’s website stating it has been shut down on the basis of alleged criminal activity will not be insignificant.

The question which a British or European Court would probably have asked itself before granting a Prohibitory or Mandatory Order, is whether the requested remedy was proportionate.

Full Tilt Poker logo

Image via Wikipedia

Now it seems that at least some those domain names have been returned to use.

At the time of writing is forwarding to looks to be back to normal, although I understand from what I read at (Full Tilt is licenced here in Alderney) that they have suspended real-money play from the USA. Frankly, I’m surprised that an Alderney company ever allowed US players!

But there’s a big lesson in this episode.

And it’s something that has been obvious to those of us in the domain name industry for years, but self-evidently, it’s not something that the risk management people at online poker sites have ever considered before.

It’s not only ‘foreign’ ccTLDs like Libya that have jurisidictional legal risk to an online e-commerce business. Any company which uses a .COM, .NET or any other ICANN ‘gTLD’ domain name places itself at risk of losing its entire business and voluntarily puts itself within US jurisdiction.

And it’s not only criminal proceedings in above-average risk sectors (such as online poker) that are vulnerable.

Any non-country-code domain name can be disputed in an American court. And well established, legal businesses could find themselves on the end of an expensive, and inconvenient ‘reverse cyber hijacking’ attempt in a US court. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. In 1997the British owners of PRINCE.COM had to take swift  legal action in London’s High Court to keep their domain from an American company who, as an American company, believed they had a better right to it

Suddenly your local country-code domain name might seem like a much better to do business in.

And the long-awaited ICANN ‘new generics’ much less so.

Oh, and an amusing postscript and shameless piece of self-promotion.

The country-code for the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which includes Alderney, is actually ‘GG’ which is poker terminology for ‘Good Game’. I can hear Bruce Forsyth in my head already!





.LY prediction comes true

Coat of arms of Libya -- the

Image via Wikipedia

Several weeks ago, in one of my first articles on Notes from a Small Island I noted that there was systemic risk in using domain names registered in foreign countries such as Libya.

And by ‘foreign’, I don’t mean overseas, I mean ‘different – culturally, linguistically, and jurisdictionally’.

Libya scores pretty high in all those categories, and in view of the recent problems experienced by LETTER.LY I am not above a passing ‘I told y’all so’.

In summary, because of communication difficulties caused by the Libyan civil war, it appears that  this particular .LY domain registration couldn’t be renewed and went off the air temporarily.

Now both .GG and .JE (the Channel Islands) have their own a small share of’ domain hack’ registrations.

GG has several different flattering meaning in Chinese internet slang. It also means ‘good game’ to computer gamers and Internet chess and poker players. There’s even a Tennessee religious group. JE means ‘I’ in French, and both ‘you’ and ‘little’ in Dutch.

The registry welcome overseas registrants — there are no artificial restrictions on registration at all, although it’s important to note that we are not advertising or promoting the domains as anything at all other than the local official two letter codes for the Channel Islands. It is clear in the Agreement, that the contract of registration is under our laws, and our courts have jurisdiction.

Location map of the Channel Islands

Image via Wikipedia


Fortunately, we have had a stable system of government and an independent judiciary for many hundreds of years – as a common-law jurisdiction under the English Crown. This gives registrants, in the same way as international banks and others in the finance industry who open branches of their businesses locally, a large amount of comfort that our system is logical and predictable and operates under the Rule of Law.

But if a third party raises a dispute over a GG or JE name, you will either have to resolve it in our equivalent of the UDRP, or hire a local Advocate to represent you in court.

And that might be an inconvenience, to say the least, depending on where you are from.



Alderney Presidential Election

This very afternoon I received in my box, courtesy of the Guernsey Post, the April 2011 Presidential Newsletter.

COA Alderney

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Sir Norman explains very well many of the subtleties of the
constitutional legal background to the appointment of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Bailiffs of Guernsey and Jersey, and of our own Presiding Officer, the President of the States of Alderney.

But then he goes on to state that the President of the States ‘has a mandate’ (that is to say, a political role) because he or she is elected by the People, not appointed.

With respect to Sir Norman’s 10 year Presidential reign, the President’s role as ‘the States’ conscience’ does not derive from the relatively modern innovation of popular election (which has only been the case since 1948) but is inherited from the ancient customary law duty of the Juge (judge) in Alderney, the same duty being upon the Bailiffs in Guernsey and Jersey, to ensure that the States Members were fully informed of the views of the People. That duty came about in ancient times when the majority of Islanders could neither read nor write.

A former Bailiff, quoted in a case in the European Court, said: “In Guernsey, the Bailiff “is the Island’s chief citizen and representative”. Speaking of the casting vote, he went on to say “in Guernsey, in general, the Bailiff uses his voice to ensure a further investigation of questions on which the States are in doubt”.

It cannot be doubted that, in Alderney, that role is carried out by the President, and the Presidential office is the successor-in-law to the last Juge (Judge Sir Frank Wiltshire). Furthermore, it must be the case, as an integral part of the Bailiwick, that same constitutional conventions that applies to the Bailiff in Guernsey must apply to the President when carrying out the same role, such as when the States is faced with an equally divided vote.

Yet in his newsletter, Sir Norman goes on to set out the circumstances in which he believes when the President may take on a political role, although he says these circumstances are limited.

As respected scholar Peter Hogg wrote: “Conventions are rules of the constitution which are not enforced by the law courts. Because they are not enforced by the law courts they are best regarded as non-legal rules, but because they do in fact regulate the working of the constitution they are an important concern ….”

With very the greatest of respect, I feel that Sir Norman’s assessment of the circumstances a President may be political is entirely wrong.

The President should never take on a political role – his job is, above all — in the House — to keep the politicians in line.

And, in plain language, he cannot be a player as well as a referee.

Any time the President joins in to the political fray, it seems to me, no matter how infrequently, he diminishes the respect for, and effectiveness of the office. Fortunately that has not, so far as I can remember, happened on more than one or two occasions in the last 10 or 12 years.

Finally, there seems to be a contradiction in the Newsletter. If we accept after all that the President has any political role (although I say he should not have), it follows that any candidate for that role cannot be inhibited from campaigning for the office. Indeed to do so, would deny the very mandate that President Browse suggests that he has.

In any election it must be for the People, not an elected politician, no matter how respected, to judge if a style of campaigning is appropriate or not, using their ultimate power, that of their vote.

And, as a democracy, we should trust the electorate to decide who is the better candidate.

I therefore look forward to the May Billet and to learning who the candidates for the forthcoming Presidential Election in Alderney shall be.


Silent movie stars, presidents and queens

Last week I stayed at the St Francis Hotel in Union Square, San Francisco. Currently operated by the Westin Group, it is a hotel full of history.

Pictures, July 23 1921, Roscoe

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It was the hotel where Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle stayed, in room 1221, on fateful night which resulted in the death of Virginia Rappe during a party. It is also the hotel where Al Jolson, during a poker game, passed away. Also in Room 1221!

Some years back, the Queen and President Reagan both stayed there at the same time. (Behave!). Bill Clinton was there at the same time as me.

More recently, because of a labour dispute, the hotel was invaded by a flashmobbing brass band and people singing ‘Don’t Stay in a Bad Hotel’.

But my experience was different. There were annoyances, like the exhorbitant cost of sandwiches at the lobby coffee shop, but generally, the attitude of staff to guests was genuinely friendly and concerned and they didn’t seem exploited to me.

There was also another picket (this one was by the hotel workers union — not the one by porn stars) but you know, from a foreigners point of view what I found curious, is that none of the people picketing seemed to be staff.

Bill Clinton

Of course I might be wrong. But from what I’ve seen I would certainly stay there next time I’m in SF.

I wouldn’t mind being caught in a (reasonably) good hotel.

But not in Room 1221.

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‘We like porn — no to .XXX’

Sometimes, it seems, the capacity of apparently sane and rational individuals to hold irrational and self-inconsistent views reaches new heights.


Image by kieren mccarthy via Flickr

Take the strange case of the .XXX domain which was finally approved a couple of hours ago, after many stops and starts over the last few years, though for people outside the rarified world of Internet Governance, it won’t have made much impact.

.XXX was a proposal, hotly debated for many years now, by British-born, Florida-based businessman Stuart Lawley to create a web address suffix (just like .COM for companies or .GG for Guernsey)  to allow content publishers in the euphemistically-named ‘adult entertainment industry’ to create website and email addresses ending in .XXX (e.g.

Let’s get one thing straight – whether or not there is such a new extension is a matter of amused indifferernce to me. — it’s somewhat unlikely I should ever want an XXX domain name, but you never know.

What I do see as important, are the rights of internet users to free expression without disproportionate interference in those rights.

Mr Lawley’s plan which he has been promoting for 6 or 7 years,  was fiercely opposed, as you might imagine.

But it was opposed by a most curious coalition.  An unholy alliance between religous and moralist fundamentalists and porn producers.

Yes, that right. Unbeleivably, a part of the industry that the new web address is planned to serve doesn’t want it. (Part does self-evidently).

Now I’ve recently been attending the international meeting at which .XXX was  finally approved.  (I’m not part of the group of people – the ICANN Board – which made the actual decision). Andt the whole meeting was picketed. Even those of us, like me, that werenot directly involved in the decision making process.

The group doing the picketing was the ironically-named ‘Free Speech Coalition’ whose sole message appeared to be ‘Ban .XXX’.

I kid you not, they were chanting ‘Free speech now- no to XXX‘.

Is it only me that can see the irony in a group calling itself the Free Speech Coalition trying to ban some one from using what, after all, is simply a short, three-letter string. They really are confusing labels with content. But that is par for the course in the internet naming industry.

There are well advanced plans for ‘.GAY‘.  Will the the African Bishops get together with Stonewall to oppose .GAY?

Or perhaps Alcoholics Anonymous will join with the Licensed Victuallers to ban .BOOZE

And this is deeply concerning for free speech. It is a fundamental right that we should be allowed to say what we like, within lawful, necessary and proportionate limits.

One of the opposing voices was an attorney and former pornographer, who through an impassioned speech opposing .XXX on free speech grounds, stated that he had the First Amendment tattooed on him.

We took up the argument in the lobby on the way out. Although measured and courteous, he was still impassioned — at one time partially disrobing to show me the actual tattoo.  It was on his bicep, for the curious, not the other place I’d imagined. And it was nothing like how you might imagine someone in the porn industry taking off the clothes in front of you might be

There is no compulsion whatsoever for pornographers to stop using .COM so can someone please tell me where is there any interference with their free speech rights. Yet, these so-called Free Speech advocates  are arguing, dangerously, in my opinion, to suppress a form of expression — the use of a three letter string as top-level domain name by Mr Lawley.

I still don’t get it.


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Thunderbirds are go!

I’m writing this from the Privium lounge at Amsterdam Airport.

For those of you (probably most) who have never heard of it, Privium is a program – open to all EEA nationals (the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), which allows high-tech border passage, bypassing the Koninklijke Marechausee‘s passport control checkpoints on entering or leaving the Netherlands to/from a non-Schengen state.

You have a card, which you have to pay for, on which is stored your biometrics (not in any database).

You use an iris recognition device which opens a turnstile which lets you bypass the passport checks.

The look on the faces of US and other visitors to Europe as you use the device and sail past the massive queues is priceless. 

It’s actually open to US citizens too so long as they are Global Entry vetted (There’s a reciprocal deal with Global Entry, although at the moment, European can’t get Global Entry privileges unless they are Dutch citizens).

Privium also has its own dedicated lounge, for which there is an extra fee (this is called Privium Plus). But if you only use it once or twice a year, it costs in with the quality of the food and the ambience, compared with the cavernous KLM Crown Lounge.

The Privium lounge is intimate and cosy,. It’s decorated in a 1960s UFO chic and even better the uniforms worn by the staff seem to have been designed by Gerry Anderson!

Naturally the lounge has its own Privium turnstile, giving instant access to airside, so you have the benefits of being either landside or airside right up until the last moment. (Security checks are at the gates for non-Schengen flights, so you need to add a few mins extra for that).

The only disadvantage is that it’s not open at weekends. But if you transit between Schengen and non-Schengen at Schiphol more than twice a year, its cheap insurance against a missed connection.

(And the lounge is the height of cool!)


Name that tune?

(This is song was a big hit when originally released, and was showcased in an animated feature with a well-known cartoon character, but it’s actually a morality tale about the evils of drug abuse. The song reappeared in an iconic movie of the 1980s, sung by the original artist, re-introducing the musical genre to a new generation).

zoot suits

Image by istolethetv via Flickr

The song concerns a young lady who was a very attractive prostitute, as hard as women get, but she really was a nice person inside.  She was having an affair with a disreputable gentleman who she really loved despite the fact he was a cocaine user. They went out together in to the Chinese ghetto, where he introduced her to smoking opium. In her opiate-induced fantasies, she dreamed about being being part of upper-class society, having a lot of money and being given nice things. She then became a successful marijuana dealer but was never confident of her success.

Name that tune?

(As an extra bonus .. the extended lyrics of the song, not often heard of, continue her story …)

She and her boyfriend went on a binge, and got arrested. They were put in the back of a police van and taken to gaol. She gave the bail money to her boyfriend who kept it and disappeared, leaving her incarcerated. Whilst in prison, she was visited by a religious gentleman who preached moderation. In response she made suggestive pelvic movements, implying the offer of sexual congress.  So she was taken to the insane asylum, where she died, which was pretty much the
end of the matter.

Our protagonist was really a good girl, but was the unfortunate victim of circumstances.


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Public policy input to new domains

I’ve just found the time to read the GAC  communiqué from the ICANN-Brussels meeting.

It’s a mark of the maturity of the whole private-public sector co-operation that is ICANN that in comparison to some of the similar documents I read in 1999 that it is so reasonable in tone.

In particular, the GAC’s observations on the Rule of Law and existing rights (a subject I’ve written on elsewhere on this site in respect to the Cybercrime Recommendations) are entirely sensible to include. While taking the time necessary to get things right is inconvenient, and costly to those who are investing time and money in new business models, NOT getting it right will be incredibly more costly and inconvenient.

Registrars and registries (existing and potential) must welcome public policy input in this fashion, since by working together (in the original spirit of the Internet) something much greater will be achieved than either sector (private industry on the one hand and Government on the other) could acheive alone.

Next week’s ICANN meeting promises to be quite interesting!



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