The Reality of Offshore Hosting
Just a forewarning: this article isn’t new content. I actually wrote this in 2012. Looking through some data, I actually found it is linked on a couple forums. As odd as that may be, I figured I’d see if I could get lucky and find it in the Wayback Machine. And I did!
I am hosting illegal content, I should host it offshore!
I see this line of crap all of the time. People looking for offshore hosting and almost always for the wrong reasons. It’s the intention of this little… essay, I guess we’ll call it, to debunk many of the myths and fallacies regarding offshore hosting. It’s my hope that people will come to understand that what they’re doing is largely ineffective. And by coming to understand that, they will be able to make a better informed decision.
If, after reading this, you decide you still want to go with offshore hosting then so be it. I cannot, and will not, go out of my way to stop that from happening. But at least make sure it’s an educated decision. Ignorance may be bliss, but only until you receive a hard awakening. Hopefully I can stop that from happening to you.
Jurisdiction, in the simplest definition, is the area in which law enforcement is legally able to apply their authority. An FBI agent cannot issue you a ticket for running a red light in your hometown. Vermont State Police cannot just drive down to Connecticut and start patrolling the streets at will. There are rules to what agencies are allowed to do, and where their authority starts and ends.
It’s important to understand what jurisdiction applies to you when you’re opting to host illegal content.
Myth #1: Jurisdiction lays in the country my content is hosted.
Jurisdiction actually lays with the country the owner of the content lives in. If you live in California (USA) then you fall under California state and United States federal jurisdiction. Your content, as it’s your property, also falls into those jurisdictions by proxy of you.
The server itself may be outside of the law enforcement’s jurisdiction, but you don’t. If you host illegal content, or allow illegal activity on any entity owned by you (your web site for example), you’re responsible for it.
Myth #2: The government can’t take down my content if it’s in another country.
Hosting offshore merely makes this process more difficult. It does not make it impossible. When law enforcement in the United States wish to take down content hosted within its borders, they must go through the court to authorize a legal order. This process is the same in many nations. For law enforcement to take down content in another country they would simply request it through their counterparts in said country. Given every country but a select few recognize international copyright conventions, this isn’t an issue.
Myth #3: The Pirate Bay gets away with it because they’re in Sweden; if I host my content in Sweden I’ll be fine.
The Pirate Bay gets away with it because they’re not technically hosting illegal content. The magnetic links they host are just that: links. The content actually sits across the Peer-2-Peer network on individual user’s machines. It’s not on the servers maintained by TPB.
That said, four TPB owners were charged and convicted of being accessories to copyright infringement. The courts deemed the operators were promoting the act of copyright infringement to a gross enough extent that they were sentenced to one year in jail.
Any content or activity hosted on hardware paid for by you is, invariably, your responsibility. There are few exceptions to this and they’re prescribed by the DMCA. But unless you’re a service provider of some sort, the content on your hosting ultimately belongs to you. And you can be investigated and charged by your local law enforcement.
It doesn’t matter if the content is hosted twenty-thousand miles away from you. It doesn’t matter if the country in which your server resides ignores international copyright conventions. You personally can be the target of criminal proceedings no matter where your content happens to be.
So with that, continue your hunt for off-shore hosting. But at least now understand it isn’t protecting you. It isn’t covering your back. It’s not putting you outside your home country’s jurisdiction.