- Elgar European Law series
Chapter 3: International jurisdiction and applicable law
One of the most important and most difficult questions surrounding the Internet concerns resolving civil disputes in regular courts. The claim that the Internet should be subject to regular civil courts and regular civil procedure today seems natural although it has not always been so. In its early days, it was thought that the Internet, inherently present or accessible ‘everywhere’, makes the traditional premises upon which private international law rests unworkable.1 Courts ought to exercise care, these arguments ran, when they assume jurisdiction over web pages not connected in any way with their own forum. The Internet is borderless and should not be subject to the same rules as regular transactions.2 It would be impossible or improper to impose local jurisdiction and local laws on a global phenomenon with little or no local presence.3 The courts should let the Internet develop as freely as possible and should approach the issue with an eye for the medium’s particular qualities. Today, few if any of these claims have support. The courts do assert jurisdiction locally over absent defendants who post globally and apply national laws to trans-border cases. Since the majority of situations in a cyberspace setting differ little from their non-electronic counterparts there are today no separate private international law rules for cyberspace, although newer instruments (such as the Brussels I Regulation and the Rome II Regulation, discussed below) do recognize some situations specific to electronic communications. In spite of the willingness to take Internet disputes, both the courts and the litigants keep struggling to understand
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