The European Court of Justice recently issued a ruling that could change the way courts around the world view the Internet. In the decision, a panel of judges found that material placed online could be seen by an indefinite number of worldwide users and therefore, held that plaintiffs may sue over online content in any forum of their choosing in the EU, no matter where they reside.
The Constitutional precedent upon which the court relied establishes jurisdiction in “the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur.” Even though this has traditionally meant the defendant’s domicile or principle place of business, the court acknowledged that “media has been forever changed by the Internet.”
The decision then states:
“It thus appears that the Internet reduces the usefulness of the criterion relating to distribution, in so far as the scope of the distribution of content placed online is in principle universal. Moreover, it is not always possible, on a technical level, to quantify that distribution with certainty and accuracy in relation to a particular Member State or, therefore, to assess the damage caused exclusively within that Member State.”
It is therefore acceptable to bring lawsuits throughout the EU, so long as plaintiffs can establish a damage was incurred at the chosen jurisdiction. Damages, however, will be limited to those that resulted in the forum country.
Are the courts keeping up with the changing times or are they pushing too far with this ruling? Is this a positive step in limiting the number of jurisdiction suits or will this ruling create even more jurisdictional issues?
For more information, see: The Hollywood Reporter.