Memo on Free Republic

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This document was sent to me from an e-mailbox service
that must allow aliases. The name in the sender's box is henryluce,
which I think is an alias. I gather that one of you has access to
waste baskets in high places. Or maybe this is a hoax. Either way,
it's worth considering. ~ Lew Rockwell


When Robinson
started the Free Republic, he made the typical mistake of most American
Web site owners: he located the site's server inside the United
States. He also incorporated under American law. This brought his
operation under the U.S. court system. That made our work easy.
We've got lawyers. He's got a free site. Now we've got him. He didn't
think through what he was doing. Most of them don't. If this ever
changes, we will be in permanent trouble.

There is still
a big problem facing us. A Web site is digital. It can be moved
in a few hours outside of the jurisdiction of American courts. There
are Web hosting services all over the world. The digital genie is
out of the bottle.

I have conferred
with the association's lawyers. They tell me that it would cost
over a million dollars to litigate a case if a Web owner incorporated
anonymously in a jurisdiction like the Isle of Man or the Turk &
Caicos Islands, and then ran the site from one of the dozen jurisdictions
named by the United States Trade Representative as uncooperative.
In fact, all of our lawyers think we would probably lose the case.

We will not
get cooperation off-shore.

Even if we
were able to win, within 24 hours the site could be on-line in another
of the dozen countries, and owned by a new closed corporation in
another island jurisdiction. They could play island-hopping with
us for years. It would cost them almost nothing; it would cost us
a fortune.

The problem
is, anyone can get a list of the non-cooperating countries. The
Office of the United States Trade Representative lists them under
the "Special 301" annual review. Last year, Ukraine was
at the top. The list also included India, Hungary, Taiwan, the Dominican
Republic, Korea, Lithuania, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Russia,
Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Hungary.

The Web will
remain a permanent threat to us. Anyone can post an article to a
Web site hosted in Costa Rica or Russia as easily as inside the
United States. Our only hope is that no one figures this out before
the courts shut down Robinson's site. If we can break the continuity,
where the site's regular visitors think it's shut down for good,
maybe they won't find it. But if he give away the domain to an off-shore
corporation, and the corporation sets up shop in Russia or some
other "Special 301" country, I don't think we can stop
it. Neither do our lawyers.

Here is our
immediate problem. If Robinson is smart enough to give away the
site to some untraceable off-shore corporation or trust, or possibly
even sell it outright, it would be hard to identify the actual buyer.
These off-shore counties make money by selling secrecy to foreigners.

This ought
to be stopped, but for now, we're stuck.

What I am afraid
of is that someone who visits Robinson's site regularly will see
the potential of running the site out of the jurisdiction of the
United States. He will make Robinson an offer. As long as Robinson
doesn't try to evade American taxes by taking unreported income
off-shore, or by owning more than 49% of the corporation, I don't
think we can get him. If he actually gives it away, we're dead.
How could we get the courts of some non-cooperating nation to shut
down the site if the site is owned by a corporation in a third nation?

The thing that
may save us is that his site's visitors are right-wingers. They
spend hours on the site, but they pay nothing. They place zero value
on their time and on Robinson's time, too. We can be sure that 95%
of them wouldn't pay a dollar a month to gain access to the site.

Most of them
wouldn't donate a dollar to their grandmother's legal defense fund.
They ought to call the site Free-Rider Republic.

What could
undermine our efforts so far is that one of them may work with Robinson
to make the switch off-shore "for the cause." Robinson
does have his share of fanatics, and some of them are technically
proficient. Let's hope that this hard-core group does not include
anyone who understands off-shore corporations.

Time is of
the essence.

For obvious
reasons, please don't put this memo in your files. Shred it.

7, 2002

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