If you have been kicking around the internet for a while, you have no doubt heard some version of the Havenco story. It was a data center that was set up in the Principality of Sealand that called to mind the fictional data haven from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. The idea was a data store that wouldn’t be subject to the laws of any of the governments in the world. It’s one that sounds good at first blush, but was rather troubled in actual practice. Really though, that is just one small piece of what is the rather amazing story of Sealand’s history.
James Grimmelmann has an article posted at ars technica that does a great job at telling the tale. It’s a companion to his 80 page article for the University of Illinois Law Review called ‘Sealand, HavenCo, and the Rule of Law’. That is available as a pdf, and is a fascinating story that is well worth a read. It calls to mind the old standard that truth is stranger than fiction. As James puts it:
“The story itself is fascinating enough: it includes pirate radio, shotguns, rampant copyright infringement, a Red Bull skateboarding special, perpetual motion machines, and the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of State.”