I'm a Canadian student currently hosting a website using a German VPS service, which I want to put a forum on in the near future where users can submit content. However, all of my domains are .com, which is an American registry under an American registrar, and the website is made accessible to American users although the target audience is worldwide.

I'd like to avoid subjecting myself unnecessarily to United States laws, in order not to be required to comply fully with things like the DMCA safe harbour provision and COPPA (although I might implement similar measures to the extent I find reasonable and to maintain compliance with the local laws of both Canada and Germany). I don't plan on doing anything illegal with the site itself, however, unlike a similar question posted here.

In this situation, does the United States have any power or jurisdiction over my website? Do I need to comply with US laws just because I make my site accessible to them or because my domain name is under American control?


2 Answers 2


Kim Dot Com was a German operating servers in New Zealand and yet the FBI still raided him. Despite the raid being deemed entirely illegal in hindsight, that data and business was destroyed regardless.

Basically you can not avoid the US claiming jurisdiction wherever they please unless you work in countries like China because the US has no regard for foreign law.

The more US visitors you expect to have, the more you need to comply with US laws even though they don't technically apply. Your edits don't change the fundamental answer, the amount of attention your site will get depends on who it is aimed at and what it does, not where it is hosted.

  • 1
    On the other hand 99% of websites aren't going to get on the radar of the US in a way that will warrant a raid. While you are correct that it is hard to be totally outside of US control, this doesn't answer the question about more mundane offences. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 19:50
  • The fact that the raid was illegal would be enough for the purposes of this question, as I'm generally thinking of cases where the US would otherwise be justified in taking action against me. I'm not trying to run a site with piracy like he did - I just don't want to be held accountable if a few links to pirate sites pop up here and there and I don't catch them because I didn't perform "due diligence" or something, and I want to limit the amount of in rem action that the US government can impulsively take against my website.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 20:17
  • Megaupload had legitimate use too, it wasn't FOR piracy. The difference between them and google is the cost of their legal and PR depts. Whether the raid was illegal or not is less important than the end result. You CAN be held accountable for a few links here and there, the only way to avoid it is to do and be seen to be doing your best to make sure that there are none, a token effort to just be technically legal is not considered enough. And even after that you still need to cross your fingers.
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 10:20

US can always block your site within US itself through a court's order if you've broken their laws.

If you are member of any country having extradition treaty with US then you can be brought in US to face their courts(that's why Julian Assange does not want to come out of Equador embassy in London as Sweden has extradition treaty with US).

Even if yours is not a member country, if you visit any member country, you can be caught and deported to US.

Sometimes US has also used brute force to capture their enemies in the foreign countries without even getting it ratified it before the UN or so.

  • I certainly don't expect that anything on my website will incite such drastic political measures as brute force as you mentioned. As I mentioned, I want to limit the amount of impulsive action that the United States government can take against my website under acts like SOPA or CISPA. If they actually have a case against me, I'll be more willing to listen.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 5:17
  • I forgot to mention that brute force is generally used for drug lords & terrorists
    – AgA
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 5:39
  • Well, thankfully I don't think my website will ever be involved in drug trafficking or terrorism. And that is one thing I will actively monitor and report on sight.
    – Joe Z.
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 6:13

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