The Evolving Test for Jurisdiction
By Christopher Wolf and abridged by Devashish Bharuka
For full version of the text, click here

The author talks about the ‘interactive-passive’ distinction of the websites on which the courts have been relying on for exercising power. In making a determination, the greater the commercial nature and level of interactivity associated with the Site, the more likely it is that the Web Site operator is ‘purposefully availing itself’ of the forum state’s jurisdiction.

One end of the spectrum of judicial decisions involves holdings that financially-motivated, interactive contacts with a foreign state will give rise to personal jurisdiction; the other end of the spectrum reflects holdings that a strictly passive, informational Web Site will not give grounds to assert jurisdiction. Many cases have fallen in the middle, being neither strictly interactive nor passive. These cases include situations where a defendant operates an informational Web Site, but also allows a user to exchange information with the host computer by providing an e-mail address, a toll-free telephone number or other forms of activity that would enable an ongoing relationship with the user to emerge or the opportunity to solicit business in the future. In these instances, courts have examined a variety of other factors in determining the level of interactivity and the commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on the Web Site. Certain cases have been discussed.

Absent actual business transactions in the forum state, or evidence that residents are targeted, the distinction between active and passive contact becomes blurred in the context of interactive Web Sites that allow users to exchange information with the host computer. Courts generally have followed a pattern of not extending personal jurisdiction where the Web Site operator simply provides an informational Web Site that can be accessed in the forum state, but which does not serve as a platform for soliciting business or conducting electronic commerce. As the Internet evolves, so will the body of Internet law – including that relating to personal jurisdiction.