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Offshore hosting firm HavenCo lost at sea

Principality data sanctuary sinkage

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Controversial hosting provider HavenCo - which operated from the 'nation' of Sealand, an old naval fort off the coast of Suffolk which was declared a 'sovereign principality' by its quirky owner Roy Bates - has finally gone offline.

As of last week, the HavenCo website is gone and the domain is now hosted outside the Sealand subnet.

Founded in 2000 by Bates' son and Michael with $1m in seed money, the company initially offered an everything goes-policy along with an offshore fat-pipe data haven. Child pornography, spamming and malicious hacking were strictly prohibited, but with no restrictions on copyright or intellectual property for data hosted on its servers, file-sharing certainly looked like a possibility.

However, Bates said he would readily "turn customer information over to the authorities if there was any serious problem with our stuff".

By 2002 the company was already in trouble when co-owner Ryan Lackey - described by Wired once as a MIT dropout and self-taught crypto expert - left HavenCo after disagreements with the Bates family over the management of the company. He also claimed HavenCo owed him $220,000 in cash and additional money in stock.

Many existing customers had left by 2003. With no investment backing bandwidth never materialised, and the location was vulnerable to DoS attacks. However, what probably scared most potential customers was the fact all internet connectivity went through the UK and that the UK claimed the platform was within its territorial waters.

HavenCo was one of many failed business ventures in an attempt to profit from the world's smallest country. A scheme to build a hotel and gambling complex never materalised. Since last year, the principality has been put up for sale.

Last year, Swedish bittorrent search site The Pirate Bay said it was in negotiations with Prince Michael of Sealand about purchasing the principality to use it as a base for its own operations, but Bates declared he would never sell the micronation - currently priced at €750m - to a BitTorrent tracker. ®

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