A US District Judge, Thomas Hogan, ruled last week that a government fund in excess of $50m collected from domain name registrants is an illegal tax because it was never approved by Congress. The judge ruled in favour of a group of registrants who called the tax "a licence to steal", and sued Network Solutions (NSI), which has collected the fee, $30 per two- year registration since 1995 on behalf of the National Science Foundation - the government body that oversees the domain name system. Nine other charges that the company's contract with the government amounted to an illegal monopoly were dismissed.
"This decision amounts to business as usual for Network Solutions by affirming that our position as the exclusive registrar of domain names in .com, .net, .org, and .edu is legally constituted," said Gabe Battista, NSI's CEO.
It is unclear how the ruling affects a portion of the money - $23m - set aside by an act of Congress for the Next Generation Internet high- speed network project. In February, Judge Hogan issued an order that temporarily froze the fund. NSI stopped collecting the registration fee at the beginning of this month.