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UPDATE: due to lack of clarity in the initial question, I have completely revised it. I, hopefully, made it more comprehensible now.


I often see sites which illegally distribute copyright-protected content (torrents and alike) using .to domain name (which belongs to Kingdom of Tonga).

This makes me curious to know:

  1. Why aren't this domains legally seized from their owners and/or shut down?

    • As ICANN is located in the US, I'd expect it to operate under the US laws. Does it's authority is restricted, when dealing with other country's domain?
  2. Are there any special "Total internet freedom" laws in Tongo, or they just do not care that their TLD is used (?abused) in such way?

I do not want to link to exact sites here (I believe for obvious reasons). But I know a number of content-sharing sites, which were legally deprived of their domain name, and had to move to another one (not all of them, but some moved to .to domain). With that said, I have never heard .to domain to be legally taken away, in alike cases.

  • And the legal question is .,.? – Dale M Apr 12 '19 at 8:00
  • The why is simple: the word torrent starts with "to." Your assumption that torrents are illegal is not correct - some are, some aren't. And your question is really not a legal question. Voting to close. – Rory Alsop Apr 12 '19 at 13:07
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a question about why people choose one domain (TLD) rather than another, not about law as such. – David Siegel Apr 12 '19 at 17:00
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    Your question is now entirely changed, and seems to have 3 separate questions in it, so you'd be better off asking them as separate questions. Quick heads up though: 1) why do you think this is possible, 2) not correct and 3) not a legal question – Rory Alsop Apr 15 '19 at 9:54
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    And just for your thought - more criminal domains are hosted in the US than on .to domains. Wonder why they aren't taken down... None of this is as easy as you think. – Rory Alsop Apr 15 '19 at 9:56
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Taking control of the registered domain of a site would require multiple organizations to coordinate and would ultimately be a mostly pointless exercise, since the site would just move to a new domain name. ICANN (and all entities in the DNS infrastructure) have no control over the real servers hosting the (allegedly) infringing content, which is what law enforcement or rights holders would try to attack. There's no requirement that a site registered in Tonga has its servers in Tonga, so the fact that the domain is registered there at all is meaningless.

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ICANN operates under US law, but that is irrelevant to .to (Tonga's domain). ICANN does not run .to. As for Tonga itself, they presumably could prosecute these piracy sites, but why bother? The cost would fall on Tonga, but none of the benefits.

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  • Does it mean ICANN can easily shut down .us domain? – user25194 Apr 17 '19 at 6:34

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