VeriSign manages the .com domain (amongst others), but it doesn’t really OWN it. There’s a whole host of ICANN regulations in the way that keeps VeriSign from being able to take down any website it wants, anytime it wants. It’s looking for relief for some of those restraints in an appeal to ICANN that is first and foremost about responding to governmental takedown requests – at least on the surface – but contains slippery verbiage that could cause headaches for website owners around the world.
The Register reports that VeriSign filed a “Registry Services Evaluation Process” with ICANN today asking for the ability to shut down “abusive” .com and .net addresses "to comply with any applicable court orders, laws, government rules or requirements, requests of law enforcement or other governmental or quasi-governmental agency, or any dispute resolution process.”
VeriSign’s already helped the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency shut down a number of piracy sites earlier this year; this filing looks for permission to do so internationally. However, “requests from law enforcement,” “dispute resolution processes” and “quasi-governmental agencies” are not the same thing as a court order signed by a judge. Additionally, VeriSign hasn’t mentioned how it will handle the termination of websites that break the laws of countries with strict content and speech regulations, but are legal elsewhere in the world. (See China's blocking of Android Market for a current example, although the reasons for the block are not clear.) To try and alleviate concerned website owners, VeriSign says they will have a protest policy for evaluating whether or not a website’s removal was justified.
ICANN’s directors will have to approve the request before VeriSign is able to assume those powers.