Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Nicholas Tsagourias and Russell Buchan
Chapter 1: The legal status of cyberspace
This chapter examines the legal status of cyberspace in international law. It claims that cyberspace cannot be sovereign because it lacks those ingredients, such as a ‘people’ and the attendant institutional and legal mechanisms to support such a claim. Instead, states are able to exercise sovereignty and thus jurisdiction over persons, objects and actions in cyberspace because sovereignty, connoting authority and power, is not in principle dependent on territory. The chapter then goes on to discuss the representation of cyberspace as a global commons (res communis) but argues that cyberspace does not satisfy the physical, political and legal conditions to warrant such designation. The chapter concludes by suggesting a global treaty to regulate cyberspace, yet it explains the reasons as to why such a treaty is not possible at this stage.