Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sealand nationalizes its entire computer industry

My students and I love Sealand, that magical principality 6 miles off the coast of Britain with its own prince, flag, constitution, and currency:

As you know, you're not a country without a flag.

Always a great way to think about sovereignty, tax policy, and the social contract between individuals and government, Sealand became a preferred destination for "a crew of armed cypherpunks, amped-up networking geeks, and libertarian swashbucklers is seceding from the world to pursue a revolutionary idea: an offshore, fat-pipe data haven that answers to nobody" but it seems perhaps the dream has died.  The best part of the story is how Sealand nationalized its entire computer industry, by forcing a buyout and seizing control of HavenCo, a data hosting service company.  It seems Sealand's royal family felt that allowing HavenCo to operate as a data haven made things difficult for Sealand's relationship with Britain. So many interesting issues of international law, diplomacy, and policy going on in this--enough to write a law review article it seems!


  1. When you get up to Montreal you need to check out the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nations Reserve on the South Shore. It is a rather interesting place that sites right astride Route 138 coming off the Mercier Bridge(a pretty major throughfare with a lot of through traffic). The Kahnawake operate one of the worlds largest hosting centers for "offshore" internet gambling sites somewhat illegally under Canadian law. However, the Kahnawake have history of violent confrontation with the Federal and Quebec government(This is tied in with famous Oka crisis). Thus neither Ottawa or Quebec City has wanted to force the issue to "keep the peace" so to speak despite a certain degree of pressure from the US Justice Department. I posted a link below to the famous welcome sign the Kanhawake have upon entering their reserve below. The smaller sign in the background in French reads out to say Tax Free Cigarettes.

    Interestingly enough though the data center they operate from the offshore gambling sites has a very corporate looking website that I linked to below. The data center is also completely state of the art with all sorts of redundant Hydro Quebec and fiber optic links from Bell Canada.

    And the first nations band government has created its own gaming "commission" staffed by a bunch of white shoe Montreal lawyers that in theory license all the internet gaming sites.

  2. Tim, thanks for your comment and the links. I think that there are similar sovereignty issues here in the U.S. that impact gambling/gaming among many other things; i'm only vaguely familiar with these issues. However, that billboard pic is extraordinary--I've never seen anything like it. I would like to see it in person but it doesn't seem all that welcoming.

  3. I would say the difference between the Kahnawake and many other US/Canada tribes/bands is the Kahnawake have a bit of "bad boy" reputation both in their history of violent confrontation(This is the whole Mohawk Warriors and Oka)and there entrees into multiple "illegitimate" businesses. In the US tribes have tended to go the route of actually opening physical casinos(like Foxwoods and Mohegan in CT) however in Canada and particularily in Quebec the provincial government already runs its own casinos at Casino Montreal and Lac-Leamy outside of Ottawa. So there is nothing left for the First Nations in terms of market share(Gaming is a completely oversaturated business). The Kahnawake Reservation is also twenty minutes from downtown Montreal which tends negate the whole out of sight out of mind attitude many Canadians and Americans tend to take of Native Americans. If they want to cause trouble all they have to is blockade route 138 going right though their reservation(this is where the billboard is)and the Mercier Bridge over the St Lawrence which ties up traffic for miles.

    There are some actual tourist attractions on the reserve where they quite welcoming of visitors from either the US or Canada. I'll try to find and post some links. I know there is also a really "old school" country club on the reserve too.