An emerging ontology of jurisdiction in cyberspace
Author: Koepsell D.R.
Source: Ethics and Information Technology, Volume 2, Number 2, 2000 , pp. 99-104(6)
The emergence of the new information economy has complicated jurisdictional issues in commerce and crime. Many of these difficulties are simply extensions of problems that arose due to other media. Telephones and fax machines had already complicated jurists' determinations of applicable laws. Even before the Internet, contracts were often negotiated without any face-to-face contact entirely by telephone and fax. Where is such a contract negotiated? The answer to this question is critical to any litigation that may arise over such contracts. The laws of contract are often quite different from one jurisdiction to the next. The Internet has brought with it new forms of communication which make determining the loci of acts even more complicated. Where are contracts negotiated when they are negotiated in cyberspace? Business is being conducted in chat rooms, on web sites, and through e-mail. Each of these is technically distinct from telephones and fax machines. More importantly, these tools seem ontologically different, in varying degrees, from traditional methods of communication. The question is, are these ontological differences sufficient to warrant new legal notions of jurisdiction in cyberspace?Only a thorough ontological analysis of the parts of cyberspace and acts ``in'' it can reveal the answers to the legal questions posed by this new medium. Traditional legal analyses have relied, in part, on a crude legal ontology. That is, courts have grappled with notions of the topology and mereology of the world and legal objects when considering questions of jurisdiction. There is a simpler, theoretically sound method for determining legal jurisdiction which is based upon the notion of ``purposeful direction,'' and which treats computer-mediated transactions as just another form of communication. I will explore that method below.
Document Type: Regular paper
Publication date: 2000-01-01