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Is a Web Page Creator Subject to a State's Jurisdiction?

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When is a Web Page Creator Subject to a State's Jurisdiction? Creating and maintaining a Web page that is accessible from anywhere in the world poses new jurisdictional issues. In this 1999 article, Christopher Wolf, an attorney at a Washington D.C. law firm, explains the evolving law on jurisdiction on the Internet. The question is whether a court has personal jurisdiction of an individual just because the individual posts a Website. Mr. Wolf summarizes the law relating to that issue.

Part 1 - After reading this article, select a Web site and analyze whether the Web site creator would be subject to jurisdiction in the examples given.
Part 2 - Look at Mr. Wolf's article entitled "Internet Jurisdiction." Read all sections of the article including the conclusion.

Answer the following questions:

1. Why is personal jurisdiction an issue for those who post Websites?
2. What are some reasons that a website owner might be concerned with whether a court is able to obtain 'personal jurisdiction' over them?
3. What is normally required for a court to have personal jurisdiction?
4. When is a Court required to use long-arm jurisdiction?
5. Why is long arm jurisdiction an issue for those who create or post Web pages?
6. According to the Wolf article, the courts have imposed an "interactive-passive" test of jurisdiction. Explain that distinction.
7. According to the Wolf article, is advertising on the Web alone enough to confer personal jurisdiction?

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Solution Preview

Please see response attached, which is also presented below. I also downloaded the Wolf article at the end of the response for easy referencing. I hope this helps and take care.

Response:

Let's take a closer look at the following questions in the order that they are presented:

Part 1 - After reading this article, select a Web site and analyze whether the Web site creator would be subject to jurisdiction in the examples given.

Have your read the article yet? I downloaded the article below, so please read it.

See the website http://medlineplus.gov/

According to the Wolf article, the courts have imposed an "interactive-passive" test of jurisdiction. According to the interactive-passive" test of jurisdiction, the MedlinePlus website (http://medlineplus.gov/) would be considered "passive" and thus not subject to personal jurisdiction. In other words, "passive" contacts are those that simply make information available to interested viewers, which this web site does. For example, it provides various types of health information, including information of various health topics e.g., about drugs and supplement, medical encyclopedia with spelling and definitions of terms, dictionary, current news and press releases, to name a few. It does provide an e-mail address but only to sign up to receive e-mail announcements from MedlinePlus containing links to new topics and sites containing consumer health information. It does not seem to be using the website or e-mail to silicate sales of any health related products or items. Check the website out http://medlineplus.gov/ to see if this is how you also analyse it according to Wolf's article.

Part 2 - Look at Mr. Wolf's article entitled "Internet Jurisdiction." Read all sections of the article including the conclusion. Answer the following questions:

1. Why is personal jurisdiction an issue for those who post Websites?

Laws vary from country to country, state to state, city-to-city, etc. Determining jurisdiction determines the laws that apply to the activities on or surrounding a given website. What might be legal in the home jurisdiction of a website might not be legal in any others, even though the website can be seen from any jurisdiction due to the omnipresence of the Internet.

2. What are some reasons that a website owner might be concerned with whether a court is able to obtain 'personal jurisdiction' over them?

A court that obtains a personal jurisdiction over a website and its owner gets to apply at least some of its own jurisdictional laws and regulations to both. Such a jurisdiction creates an extra set of laws to which the website and the owner can be held responsible. Also, I would assume that tax and other financial laws can also be applied under a perosnal jurisdiction.

3. What is normally required for a court to have personal jurisdiction?

Personal jurisdiction concerns the power of a court to decide a case between the parties. In order for a court to exercise jurisdiction there must be a statutory or common law source of jurisdiction, which does not surpass the limitations imposed by constitutional due process.
Historically, personal jurisdiction law has changed over time reflecting changes of a more mobile society. Initially, personal jurisdiction would only be found if the party was physically present in the forum state. The U.S. Supreme Court later reformulated this approach to allow jurisdiction over non-resident individuals and entities based on the "minimum contacts" of the out-of-state party.

1. Territoriality
Physical presence in a state is always a basis for personal jurisdiction. In Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 24 L. Ed. 565 (1877) states were permitted to exercise jurisdiction of people and property within their territorial borders. The Supreme Court has upheld physical presence in a forum state as the basis for personal jurisdiction, even when an out-of-state individual enters the forum state for a brief time. See Burnham v. Superior Court, 495 U.S. 604, 110 S.Ct. 2105, 109 L.Ed.2d 631 (1990). Physical presence in the forum state also satisfies the requirement of constitutional due process.

2. Non-Resident Motorist Statues
Non-resident motorist statutes allowed states to have personal jurisdiction over out of state residents. In Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352, 47 S.Ct. 632, 71 L.Ed. 1091 (1927) the Supreme Court upheld a Massachusetts statute, which permitted jurisdiction over any non-resident who was operating a motor vehicle within the state and was involved in an accident. After the court upheld these statutes, many states began passing statutes that allowed jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants for a variety of causes of actions.

3. Jurisdiction over Out of State Defendants
There are two requirements for a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out of state defendant. The first is that the state must have statutory authority that grants the court jurisdiction over the out of state defendant. The second requirement is the Due Process Clause of the Constitution must be satisfied. The Supreme ...

Solution Summary

Wolf summarizes the law relating to whether a court has personal jurisdiction of an individual just because the individual posts a Website. This solution addresses the questions regarding Internet jurisdiction. It also analyzes a website using Wolf's article entitled "Internet Jurisdiction."

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