The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Here's a rather foolish item. Australia's highest court has ruled that a libel case stemming from an online article can be heard in Australia, despite the fact that the article was posted on a U.S.-based website.

The court's reasoning is that because the article was downloaded and read on Australian territory, it therefore became subject to Australian law. In view of this, the origin of publication doesn't count.

This is pretty idiotic. Aside from the precedent it would set--naturally, a company can be sued in any country in the world--it doesn't stand up to simple logic. If "the net is no different from a regular newspaper", as this suit's plaintiff claims as a result of this ruling, then what's to prevent someone from taking a print copy of a newspaper in one country into another country and then suing the publisher under that other country's laws? After all, the concept is the same: despite where the publication was produced, it would be "accessed" (read) on some other country's territory. If this viewpoint is taken literally, that would be all someone would need to claim that the work is from that point on subject to the laws of, say, Iran, China, Norway, Rwanda, etc.

So, I think the suggestion of a worldwide legal precedent being set here is hogwash. I doubt it'll stand in Australia, even.