Court rules Kentucky does not own the Internet

No, the government of Kentucky cannot seize the domain names of offshore Internet gambling operations just because the governor disapproves of wagering and believes himself ruler of the free world.

In a decision what can only be described as the grownups regaining control, the Kentucky Court of Appeals yesterday overruled a lower court decision that allowed Gov. Steve Beshear's Keystone Cops to confiscate 141 domain names last fall.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

The Kentucky Court of Appeals today granted petitions by the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, Inc. (iMEGA) to overturn an earlier trial court ruling authorizing the seizure of domain names owned by operators of overseas gambling websites. While challenged on several additional fronts -- including on a wide range of Constitutional grounds by EFF and its fellow amici the ACLU of Kentucky and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) -- the Court overturned the prior ruling based on an interpretation of Kentucky's "gambling device" forfeiture statute:

[I]t stretches credulity to conclude that a series of numbers, or Internet address, can be said to constitute a "machine or any mechanical or other device ... designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling."

Kentucky's entire approach to this matter stretches credulity, especially given the state's storied association with gambling of the racetrack variety.

You can read the ruling here (.pdf).

So, that's the end of that, right? Well, not necessarily.

A spokesman for the governor tells the Lexington Herald-Leader: "We want to take some time to review (the ruling). No decision has yet been made on whether to appeal it to the state Supreme Court."

It's no secret that I believe online gambling should be legal, regulated and taxed. That others may disagree I can understand. Not so that Kentuckians would abide such legal folly -- and such an affront to Internet freedom -- on the part of their elected officials. Throw the bums out, people.

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