Here's Why We Took Down A Pharmacy Domain Without A Court Order.

Update – Aug 22, 2014 – Second FDA Takedown Request Declined

Two days ago the FDA sent us a list of 29 more domain names they would like us to take down. The list included 8 domains owned by a Canadian business we know to be operating lawfully that we recently sprang from an arbitrary takedown at another Registrar.

We were somewhat taken aback to see the inclusion of this business’ domains in their list considering that it is not an online pharmacy, does not deal in materials which are controlled substances anywhere in the world and has no associated exigent circumstances which impelled the original takedown (translation: nobody has died).

After communicating our surprise and asking for clarification (did they really want us to take this business offline?) they responded:

Consistent with your new policy, yes, please.

As for [redacted] – it is not operating legally in the United States and the problem is solved if they do not ship their product to consumers in the United States until they come into compliance with U.S. law. As a start, ask them to register as a drug manufacturer with FDA.


We have since informed the FDA that we will not be taking this business down without a valid court order. We will also not move forward on any other extra-judicial takedowns until we have completed a review with our legal team.

Where this is probably headed

After being implored to “do the right thing”, because “exigent circumstances”, “people are dying”, etc to then be sandbagged like this with a completely over-the-top takedown request absent any similar conditions (this was supposed to be all about taking down rogue pharmacies, not renegotiating NAFTA on-the-fly) it has become clear to us that from now on, no matter who you are, no matter what you want and no matter what terrible calamities you think will befall humanity if we don’t take some domain offline right now:


We tried doing it the other way and we got suckerpunched.

What About Online Pharmacies?

We are sticking with our revised policy that you have to be PharmacyChecker or LegitScript approved. We basically don’t want unlicensed pharmacies selling “controlleds” without a license. As a trusted friend who is in the industry put it:

” I personally have no issue with self-policing to make sure that the sale of controlleds online does not happen, because the impartial evidence that kids and addicts buy this stuff online and then OD is substantial.  I suspect that you feel the same way.  I’m not averse to selling controlleds online if, say, the patient can produce a real Rx, but presumably that would be full of holes as well as addicts will say and do anything to get a fix.
People who are giving you a hard time about taking a controlled substance pharmacy offline need to understand that selling controlleds online amounts to knowing that people will almost certainly OD and deciding to do it anyway.  If somebody else thinks that’s ok, let them provide DNS services to them.  “
So remember, the easyDNS Terms of Service is a contract between easyDNS and it’s clients. What constitutes a violation is our call, not somebody else. If you want to try to compel us to do anything, you will need a court order in a competent jurisdiction.

Update – Aug 18, 2014

We have modified the new policy to also allow online pharmacies that are approved by PharmacyChecker or LegitScript

I will post a follow up on why soon. This has been quite a situation.

Yesterday morning we summarily tookdown a pharmacy website at the request of the FDA.

We found out (rather belatedly) that the FDA had named us in a complaint with ICANN after a US citizen ordered a controlled substance over the internet (via a website whose domain was on our registrar tag and using our nameservers), and subsequently died of an overdose of that substance.

We only became aware of the situation after a reporter contacted us asking questions about it. We initiated a conference call with ICANN compliance and on that call it came out that the FDA had indeed named us specifically in their complaint. Because we have not yet signed the 2013 RAA, ICANN did not notify us. The FDA also emailed our abuse queue, but we missed it (long story).

So after a long talk with ICANN compliance, and a long talk with the special agent from the FDA, a long talk with our  lawyers,  we took down the domain in question and are adding a new provision to our Terms of Service effective immediately:

Any website / domain shipping drugs over the internet must be able to produce a valid pharmacy license on demand for any country they are shipping to or face summary suspension / termination of services. (Update: OR they are approved by

Our customer has pointed out to us that this is inconsistent with our currently stated Takedown Policy. Yes it is. It begs the question:

Where do you draw the line?

Well, coincidentally, as all this was happening we received another notice from our pals at the London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Notice of Criminality

[domain name redacted]


Receipt of this email serves as notice that the aforementioned domain, managed by EASYDNS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. 28/03/2014 is being used to facilitate criminal activity, including offences under:

Fraud Act 2006

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Serious Crime Act 2007

We respectfully request that EASYDNS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. give consideration to your ongoing business relationship with the owners/purchasers of the domain to avoid any future accusations of knowingly facilitating the movement of criminal funds.

Should you require any clarification please do not hesitate to make contact.

Kind regards,

PIPCU Anti-Piracy | Operations | Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit |< > | Address: City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate, 21 New Street, London, EC2M 4TP | ü<>

I’m not sure what they’re asking us to do. It doesn’t matter because there is nothing to do. We have once again informed the PIPCU that we eagerly await the outcome of a legal process and will certainly comply with any valid court order or warrant that results from said process.

So in one case we have people allegedly pirating Honey Boo Boo reruns and on the other we have people dying. We don’t know where exactly, but the line goes somewhere in between there.

We have always done summary takedowns on net abuse issues, spam, botnets, malware etc. It seems reasonable that a threat to public health  or safety that has been credibly vetted fits in the same bucket.

As a private company we feel within our rights to set limits and boundaries on what kinds of business risk we are willing to take on and under what circumstances. Would we tell the US State Department to go to hell if they wanted us to take down ZeroHedge? Absolutely. Do we want to risk criminally indicted by the FDA because of unregulated drug imports? Not so much.

Keep in mind that Fedex was just indicted for shipping drugs for online pharmacies, it’s just a matter of time before some registrar or DNS provider meets with the same fate. We have no desire to be that registrar.


 Further Reading


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22 thoughts on “Here's Why We Took Down A Pharmacy Domain Without A Court Order.”

  1. Alrescha says:

    Unfortunately, all your posturing and bold statements lose their spark when you don't follow your own policies. You can rationalize it any way you want, but in the end nobody can predict what you'll do; if it doesn't match your policy, you'll just change that after the fact.

    • Mark Jeftovic says:

      This wasn't some nebulous takedown request or a letter asking us to adopt policies that violate our own ICANN accreditation agreement. We're talking the *FDA* acting after somebody *died*

      They absolutely could go get a warrant – which would take time. They absolutely could go to Verisign and have them yank it at the roots, which would take time. In the meantime, if this happens to somebody else then *we’re* the ones who get to explain to their next of kin (and maybe a federal judge) that we were waiting for a piece of paper to show up.

      You can call it posturing, we call it using some judgement.

  2. primexx says:

    Note that the CITY of London is not London.

  3. Rick says:

    "I'm not sure what they're asking us to do"

    You don't? Seems pretty obvious to me. Last time, they came to you without a valid court order or warrant and said "These guys are criminals…take down their domain *without* us having to prove it to anyone, or else." and you (rightly) told them what to do with themselves. This time, they're again coming to you without a valid court order or warrant, but instead of *ordering* you to take the domain down, they're appealing to your sense of right and wrong by saying "These guys are criminals…we hope you'll re-evaluate your association with them and come to the correct conclusion that you *do not* want to be associated with criminals and will take their domain down *on your own accord*, thus saving us the trouble of having to prove it to anyone."

    Isn't that what's known as "social engineering"? 🙂

  4. Mark-

    I have always admired your wisdom – It is a fine balance between customer advocacy and rights when these situations pop up. I think your wisdom prevailed on where to split the hair here. Someone died.

    There is a big difference between something like this and free speech, for example.

    Pharmaceutical regulatory compliance is a big area of focus right now, and there are a lot of efforts to chip away at the edges of it.

    To my thinking, you took a reasonable man's approach on this.


  5. sbw says:

    With all due respect, a little more information would help me feel more comfortable about this.

    It seems likely that people die all the time from an overdose or other incorrect use of perfectly legal prescription drugs, which are "controlled substances." When that happens, as far as I know, no extraordinary liability arises for the pharmacy who filled the prescription or the pharmacy's landlord. So I have to ask …

    Did FDA satisfy you that their investigation found the controlled substance may not be prescribed in the country to which it was shipped, or that the person who died did not have an applicable prescription?

    If so, fair enough. I'm comfortable with your judgment on this. It sounds like that's what you're saying.

    But if the substance was legally purchased, and the death was due to abuse or misuse, even if perhaps due to the pharmacy giving the customer wrong or inadequate information, that's no different from any number of things that can be bought on-line, is it?

    Can you give more specifics?

    • Mark Jeftovic says:

      Hi, to answer your question, yes.

      We are satisfied that the FDA investigation into the matter was credible, that the unfortunate soul purchased a controlled substance from the website in question without a prescription and then overdosed on it.

      • Greg says:

        What if he had purchased a controlled substance from the website in question *with* a prescription and then overdosed on it? What would your action have been then? What if he had forged a prescription, so the site operators legitimately thought he had one when he didn't?

        The FDA has declared war on every option for Americans to obtain cheaper drugs from overseas, and a policy like this helps them in their fight.

  6. John Horton says:

    I think that this is a responsible, thoughtful policy update. And, I think that there's a compelling reason why reasonable, voluntary anti-abuse policies make sense from an anti-abuse perspective, as well as from an Internet freedom perspective. We've shared our thoughts about this at, and we're glad to support the policy.

    In answer to one question above: we are familiar with the Internet pharmacy network in question, and have confirmed its operations ourselves with test buys. It sells controlled substances without a prescription. The entity selling the drugs is not licensed as a pharmacy in the jurisdictions it ships to. The drugs are also considered unapproved for sale due to safety reasons. In short, it was doing everything wrong and unsafe (and illegal) that it could possibly do. As a consequence, someone died. Unfortunately, that's something we see on an ongoing basis with rogue Internet pharmacies. As such, our view is that it's pretty hard to be critical of this policy update.

    EasyDNS has consistently shown itself to be a staunch advocate for Internet freedom and due process. But there's nothing inconsistent with that, and with adopting a policy prohibiting unregulated prescription drug sales without a prescription or without a valid pharmacy license.

    John Horton

    President, LegitScript

  7. Kim says:


    Interesting post. I always appreciated your insightful and wise guidance on the board and believe that whatever the "right" answer might be in this case from various perspectives (policy, legal, moral, ethical, commercial, risk, etc), the judgement call you made is fair and reasonable.


  8. Peter says:

    I've read some of the replies and there are some valid points. But overall, I think people should remember that it is Mr Jeftovic's ass that is on the line. easyDNS's policies are a reflection of how far he is willing to go to do that.

    I certainly do not support criminal internet activities, but who decides what is criminal; foreign countries, politically controlled/motivated institutions, government organizations that operate in the 'dark'? How about a politician – now that's just downright funny.

    If I were to counsel Mr Jeftovic on where to draw the line I would suggest to comply if the requesting body can put he or his staff in jail, or if the financial penalties are not worth the win in court. I would also suggest that taking down immoral sites is justified such as – I'm sure we can all agree – child pornography.

    A whole lot more complicated would be publishing what kinds of sites would be pushing the limits of his tolerance so at least the owner(s) of the site would know they are in a grey area.

    Well done Mr Jeftovic, I think you manage a fantastic company.

    • Mark Jeftovic says:

      Thanks for your kind remarks.

      This exact point came up in our talks with our lawyers, who pointed out that this was not a private body (like LegitScript) asking us to take down the website, it was the FDA – who has the power to criminally indict both easyDNS and me personally. I could also be barred from traveling to or through the US ever again.

      As one of them put it "it would be like dying alone on a hill encircled by enemies".

      That's one freight train I’m not inclined to step in front of.

  9. Just so your audience isn't accidentally deceived here (not by Easy Domain but by LegitScript): it's one thing to disallow service to a rogue online pharmacy that sells controlled drugs without a prescription, it's another thing entirely to disallow service to a safe international online pharmacy that sell genuine medication and requires a valid prescription — and does not even sell controlled drugs! I applaud Mark Jeftovic for helping protect consumes but now I’m concerned he’s gone too far. Let’s see what he say’s to this.

    The policy that is encouraging is done in cooperation with big drug companies and U.S. pharmacies through the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP). ASOP was strongly in favor of the Stop Online Piracy Act — remember that! For clarity: is a founding member of ASOP, a group the supported SOPA. They have pushed a regime in which an American pharmacy trade group- NABP – operates an ICANN sanctioned gTLD called .Pharmacy. It’s funded by drug companies:

    As I discuss in my op-ed in the New York Times: – safe international online pharmacies that help Americans afford prescription drugs they can't afford in the U.S. are being targeted by groups like ASOP, LegitScript, and NABP. See Techdirt:

    Again, blocking rogue pharmacy sites that endanger people is good. Disallowing service to safe international online pharmacies is Internet censorship and bad for the public health. Why? Transparency is what frees consumers in a global market place. 50 million Americans did not fill a prescription in 2012 because of cost. When it comes to SAFE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS people should know what their prices are and how they can obtain them safely if they can't afford them where they live. The drug companies and U.S. pharmacies don’t want them to know how. Registrars don’t have to help drug companies.

    Gabriel Levitt
    Vice President

  10. Peter Jones says:

    "Again, blocking rogue pharmacies that endanger people is good."

    This is horrible bullshit.

    I need medication for chronic pain (metal plates inserted after an accident) but the medical "professionals" are too scared to prescribe for me.

    Why can't I order online what I know I need? I am not a child. The medical people put me in this situation, refuse to help with meds, so the online sellers have been life – savers.

    I hate you people who have denied me access to online pharmacies. You are driving me to suicide because I cannot get relief from the pain the medical profession left me in, after an operation which was a scam (ie, done to make the surgeon rich).

  11. Peter Smith says:

    I was so grateful to an online pharmacy for sending me my prescription drugs. They were painkillers , needed because a corrupt surgeon left me in terrible pain after inserting a useless metal plate in a joint. This surgeon then refused to give me pain meds, I suppose because he is being monitored for what he prescribes.

    By shutting down the online pharmacies, you are preventing me from getting the meds I need…you are driving me towards suicide..and I hate you for blocking the online pharmacies.The medical profession will not help me, and they were the ones who damaged me in the first place (thousands of dollars for unnecessary surgery).

    You people who are blocking online pharmacies are doing much more harm than good. I hate you.

    (65 year old man)

  12. Shar says:


    It is of great sadness that you will be working with Legitscript who is actually at odds with Pharmacy Checker. The founder of Legitscript is a

    big bully and indirectly helps the big pharmaceutical industry keeps the

    cost of medications for Americans at an astronomical prices because a lot generics are not available in the U.S market. The majority of Americans are buying life saving medications that cost less outside the U.S. I understand that controlled substances are serious issues but drug addicts will always find a way to get their fix. The legitimate patients who are poor and can't afford are greatly affected by the policies of this PRIVATE company (Legitscript) masquerading as the righteous arbiter on who is legal and illegal. There are a lot American citizens who strongly detest John Horton and I hope that you will do your homework on this guy. Restricting life saving medications from overseas is more dangerous and probably will kill more sick people. It is very sad that a person who probably abused a controlled substance is dead.


    Shar S.

    • Mark Jeftovic says:

      I'm aware of the rivalry and differences of philosophy between LegitScript and PharmacyChecker. One thing they do agree one, for the most part – are rogue pharmacy sites, those sending controlled substances without prescriptions, or just downright counterfeit, or sub-potent medications.

      At the end of the day, if they are approved by PharmacyChecker but not by LegitScript, it's good enough for us. Hope that addresses your concerns.

  13. Taking down this particular website was an appropriate response due to the graveness of the situation and the fact that the medication was a controlled substance that was being sold without a doctor’s prescription.

    However, FDA actions have muddied the distinction between rogue pharmacies and the legitimate international online pharmacies that millions of Americans depend on each year to access medicine they can afford.

    We are gravely concerned about resulting policies and actions by private companies that could harm public health by cutting off access to legitimate pharmacies that provide access to safe, affordable medicine.

    We were pleased to see that easyDNS modified the policy to include “OR they are approved by” This modification favors consumers and ensures that domain takedowns won’t jeopardize access to safe and affordable imported prescription drugs. This action took guts. The pressure from the government and others must have been immense. We applaud easyDNS's principled stance!

  14. Oxidize says:

    This is sheer and complete foolishness. The airmailgroup, whose myriad of sites were ALL taken down without court orders, sold medications that came along with valid prescriptions. They offered nothing in the Sch. II area, or even Sch. III that I knew of. Essentially they sold Sch. IV medications WITH prescription from doctors in the UK.

    PharmacyChecker or PharmacyPolice or whomever it may be now and in the future will always have a vested interest in allowing "certain" pharmacies to get the OK and "certain" others not to. It is a facade of supposed quantification and empirical study, but it's not. It is no better than arbitrary in my opinion, and any time you EVER have a "Watchdog" group, who is watching the watchmen (to steal a line)?

    In this age of medical knowledge and plentiful safe medications, I believe people should have a right to buy Sch. IV meds that they want or need. Whether that be because the price of their meds domestically are sky high (I have found online meds at a tenth of the cost at Walgreens), or because their doctor is caught up in the opiate/benzo/z-drug HYSTERIA the DEA has created, they had a way to be FREE and buy some of the low-scheduled drugs at mostly reasonable prices.

    Now they don't.

    Viagra overdoses have caused death and penile amputation. Tylenol overdoses have caused liver failure in young people, killing them in a mere week. I think people should be able to buy kratom or etizolam as well, which are mostly unscheduled (depends on state), and can certainly cause overdose as well.

    Alcohol is responsible for massive percentages of domestic violence, rape, deaths by vehicular homicide, and acute intoxication causing death. ANYTHING can be used to overdose. The death of one young person who foolishly took to much of something is not justification for castration of the vendor. It it were, EasyDNS could never register or host any domains that sold any medication, even over-the counter, any alcohol, and psychoactive herbs, and any chemicals (drain cleaner NaOH or pool cleaner Hcl) that could cause harm or death if misused. Targeting one pharmacy that has been around for more than a decade with thousands of appreciative customers is silly. It is naive and you essentially caved to government pressure. The government always gets what it wants because the consequence of having a spine can be intense.

    But that is exactly what is wrong with this situation. No due process was enacted or completed. One agency gives uncorroborated details of some overdose, and you guys fold like a house of cards. Deaths per year from airmailgroup: .1

    Deaths per year from tylenol: 458

    Lots of big pharma is interested in seeing smaller, cheaper foreign pharmacies go under. It is common sense. The minute that your pharmacy on the corner who charges you $175 for 30 ambien CR has an overseas competitor who sells it for 1/3 of that, they start losing profit at a compounding rate. What they want, and thus what the FDA wants (who are appointed by the politicians controlled by bug pharma) is to make sure you can ONLY get your medications from ONE place: THEM. Then prices get to soar (as they have, who can deny it?) and they control everything.

    So pharmacies like airmailgroup are a godsend to most. A chance to afford and obtain meds they need.

    Do you now how many people a year overdose on drugs from "legit", "PharmacyChecked" pharmacies? Over 100,000.

    So is this really a responsible countermeasure done only with great reticence because someone…. DIED? The facts say otherwise. Just the fact that only one supposed case of overdose is being cited from a company that has sent out millions and millions of pills over the years is a testament to how good their record actually is, especially as compared to "legit" pharmacies, whatever that even means.

    Free people should be free to buy medications, even as their neighbor chooses to overdose on them. It's why we still sell alcohol, it's why we still sell OTC medications, it's why most people don't need Internet pharmacies because they are able to get decent treatment locally. But when they can't, they should have another option, and without places like airmailgroup, the DON'T.

    The next time some kid dies from heart problems due to too much energy drink, you make sure you shut down all those sites that promote or sell those as well. Because someone DIED!

  15. Shar says:


    I think this article is good for your audience. This was published at The comments of this article were as relevant because it showed how the founder of Legitscript tried to use scare tactics against the owner of the this website.


    Posted Wed, 2010-09-29 00:26 by Paul Steinberg

    A September 29 meeting at the White House may have a major impact on the future of free speech and the Internet. Drug lobbyists are seeking to get ICANN to delete the domain name registrations of companies which do not comply with US law, even if those companies are based overseas and are complying with the laws of their native countries.

    Such a move would be nothing less than an existential threat to the Internet and hence to free speech and all of the benefits which the Internet has brought about.

    Ostensibly the meeting is to address the matter of importation of pharmaceutical drugs by US residents. Some nations do not require prescriptions for certain drugs, and recently a teenager reportedly overdosed on a painkiller purchased over the Internet.

    Most nations impose regulation on pharmaceutical products. The United States remains the most profitable market for drugmakers. As more Americans order drugs from Canada and elsewhere, the drug lobbyist, known as Big Pharma, see a significant long-term threat to the profitability of pharmaceutical manufacturers. A former Bush administration official, John Horton, set up a company while he was still working in the White House, and that company (now known as claims to vet websites selling drugs.

    Horton argues that he didn't actually set up the company until two weeks after he left the administration but rather he only set up domain names for it (March 2007). Therefore, he claims that he was in compliance with federal ethics laws. What Horton does not mention is that at the same time, his boss was issuing a report blasting a company named (April 2007), just a few days before Horton quit the White House. [Allegedly, Horton was the key staffer assigned to write the report blasting PharmacyChecker]

    The problem is that Horton's major competitor is New York-based–and the site is not sufficiently restrictive for the tastes of Horton's financial backers. A close examination of Horton's statements as to his financial support leads many to suspect that Big Pharma is the de facto funder of Horton's site via purchasing "research reports" offered for sale by LegitScript. At very least, there is an appearance of impropriety when a White House official blasts a company by name at the same time his subordinate is busy setting up a competitor company.

    All of this effort to preserve high drug prices in the USA would not be news to any uninsured American who has followed the debate over importation of pharmaceuticals and who understands that importation saves lives.

    The practice is so common that the US government has an informal understanding that shipments of drugs for personal use not exceeding 90 days supply will not be turned back at the border. Nevertheless, Google has now begun taking aggressive action against pharmacies which don't comply with US law, including banning and suing them.

    Having failed to get the cooperation of the FDA, the supporters of Big Pharma have now taken another approach. Led by Horton and LegitScript, they have put pressure to take down the websites of companies sending drugs to Americans via certain countries such as Vanuatu. Major drugmakers such as Cipla supply drugs to intermediaries in Vanuatu, which are then shipped to the United States.

    In an interview today, Horton denied that he is funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

    The meeting at the White House is with representatives of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, a not-for-profit U.S. organization that coordinates unique domain name identifiers across the world. It is the organization that ensures that domain name is assigned and gets you there, and not to say,

    For many years, foreign governments have been wary about how much influence the US government exercises over the Internet, and while ICANN and the US government have dismissed such concerns as unwarranted, the September 29 meeting may give new impetus to proposals to set up alternate webs which cannot be controlled by ICANN.

    [A detailed discussion of the relationship between ICANN and the US government, and some legal issues raised, can be found in Prof. Froomkin's article (pdf copy here); the power of Google to "remove scammy URLs from our index" raises a question as to the impartiality of Google and the influence of this private company, but that is beyond the scope of this article.]

    To have a low-level meeting at some agency office is one thing. But any meeting which is scheduled at the White House necessarily sends a message independent of the substantive content of the meeting. And to have the top ICANN officials summoned to discuss taking down internet access to companies which don't dance to the US tune is a remarkable start down a slippery slope. Indeed, a Dutch observer notes:

    I think that ICANN has no other option. Imo this is not a task for ICANN.

    Let me explain. I live in the Netherlands and when it comes to softdrugs we have a liberal policy.

    Now what if the ICANN receives complaints from some groups located in the USA regarding some websites that offer information about softdrugs.. As soon ICANN regulates this and pulls the plug on those domains they will directly violate several Dutch laws.

    A PharmacyChecker spokesperson said that his company is run by a medical doctor. He argues that his firms certification standards are every bit as restrictive as legitscript, except that his firm allows non U.S. pharmacies to be certified.

    Apart from the PharmacyChecker letter to the White House (posted on their website) the media has not picked up on this story.

    This is a story which has rammifications far beyond a few pills dispensed without a prescription. People will die from lack of medicine, and the foundations of the Internet are under attack as well.

    Once the genie is out of the bottle, it may be impossible to put it back.

    Please read the comments at this link:

    Shar S.

  16. Tony says:

    I bet you host Gun makers/sellers , your happy to host them while they kill Thousands in the USA!

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