Brittannia rules the waves

1 minute read

Ars Technica has an engrossing article by James Grimmelmann about the rise and fall of HavenCo. The firm promised data security and anonymity based on the idea that it was located on the independent nation of Sealand. The problem, of course, was that Sealand isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

HavenCo's collapse also shows a truly deep irony in its business model. By putting itself outside of other countries' legal systems, it put itself completely at Sealand's mercy. In hindsight, Ryan Lackey explained, "While I could sue HavenCo and/or directors for breach of contract, etc., ... it would presumably lead to a negative resolution of the Sealand sovereignty issue." Sealand is a toy nation with a toy legal system, not a stable business environment. Prince Roy and Prince Regent Michael might be fun to raise a glass with, but they don't inspire the kind of confidence an independent judiciary would. On Sealand, Sean Hastings and Ryan Lackey unwittingly recreated everything that drove them out of Anguilla in the first place.

It was fun to read about the origin of Sealand in the days of pirate radio and the recurrent attempts to make money off of a very weird situation. Any fan of Cryptonomicon will recognize the plot.