Jurisdiction and Zoning

I.          What jurisdiction means

A.      Personal jurisdiction.  Being brought under the power of a sovereign.

B.      Venue.  Convenience of the parties.

C.     Enforcement.  How to get law enforced, how to reach offenders.

·     Enforcement of another country’s judgements.

D.     Choice of law.  Which substantive law is fairest to apply.

1.       Lots of countries have laws that apply to the same question.

II.       Some examples

A.      Yahoo-France.  French law prohibits Nazi memorabilia.  Perhaps use software code to make French users get different content than others.  Expert panel investigated whether this would be possible, accurate.  Panel says the system would work well enough for “the middle 80%” (though not for experts).  Court orders Yahoo to use such tech.

B.      Compuserve Germany accused of distributing child porn to Germans.

C.     iCraveTV.  Canada law perhaps permits retransmission.  US law definitely does not.

D.     Pending case in Germany.  How Germany can deal with content hosted in the US.

III.    Zoning

A.      Possible new Internet feature: Be able to credibly tell a site a particular characteristic of who you are.  Precise authentication.  Automatic.

1.       Might produce a world that is increasingly zoned.  Every country wants to authenticate something (though different countries want to authenticate different characteristics). 

2.       Result: In the future (and sometimes right now), different users may see different content at a given URL.  Sometimes the differences will be of the sort that matter (not just “the nearest pizza”).

·     Possible lack of transparency (who’s doing zoning, why, etc.) as this emerges.

B.      Gradual reduction in geographic differences in copyright law.  Treaty, foreign aid used to standardize law.

C.     Check-a-box jurisdiction.  Suppose content providers had easy ability to affirmatively decide which jurisdictions to distribute their content to?  What would they choose?  Firms might exclude users from small countries just to avoid those countries’ jurisdiction.


IV.   Porn

A.      Proposals

1.       L: Tell suppliers of porn not to give it to kids.

·     Tag on site (invisible, META tag).  Self-labeling.  Hope browser companies watch these tags and optionally deny access on this basis.  One rating – “harmful to minors” or not.  US Congress: penalty for failing to properly rate content that’s in fact harmful to minors.

-   Problems: What’s harmful to minors?  Asking content providers to self-rate.

-   Jurisdictional problems: 1) Content providers will tend to rely on the most restrictive statute of all states.  (Understandable b/c USG does forum shopping.)  2) “Buy an island” to thumb your nose at the regulation (but not a magic bullet because whole company has to move to the island).