Reliving the Good Old Days of Colonialism

Colonialism is dead, or is it? France seems to be trying to relive the good old days where it would plant a flag in a foreign land and claim it as its own:

A French-born American has now sued his home country because, he claims, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has illegally seized a domain that he’s owned since 1994:


However, sometime around 2015, that very same ministry initiated a lawsuit in France in an attempt to wrest control of the domain away from Frydman. locked the domain, and Frydman even roped in the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene on his behalf.

By September 2017, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that was violating French trademark law. Armed with this ruling, lawyers representing the French state wrote to demanding that the domain be handed over.

I guess we can all take some solace in knowing that if this form of colonization turns out like the original, France will end up losing everything in the end.

This story is absurd on multiple levels. First, Jean-Noël Frydman has owned the domain for 23 years. I think it’s fair to say that if an entity doesn’t defend its trademark for 23 years, it should loses it. Second, it’s ridiculous for a nation that calls itself democratic to claim a trademark. The philosophy of democracy states that a government is ultimately owned by its people. That being the case, the people of France should be able to use the name, image, etc. of their country however they desire. Third, having a court French court rule on the matter is inappropriate because it can hardly be considered impartial in this case.

Ultimately, I think the biggest thing to be said about this story is that the court’s decision was really enabled by the centralized Domain Name System (DNS) on which the Internet currently depends. Courts are able to enforce their decision on matters such as this because there are centralized organizations that can be identified and coerced. If DNS records were managed by an anonymous decentralized mechanism, it would be far more difficult for decisions like this to be enforced.