The Problems of Jurisdiction on the Internet

The Problems of Jurisdiction on the Internet

Róisín Lautman (University of Ulster, UK) and Kevin Curran (University of Ulster, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2041-4.ch016
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Abstract

The relationship between jurisdiction and the internet has been the subject of wide ranging discussion ever since the boom in domestic internet usage. Without clear legislation, laws have been created on an ad hoc basis, often in response to specific cases. It is difficult to predict whether any one law will ever be sufficient to cope with the great variety of alleged crimes which take place on the internet. This paper discusses the problems associated with jurisdiction on the internet, presenting sample cases which have influenced the current laws and have fuelled a long term debate that continues to get more heated especially in recent times with UK celebrities being exposed on sites such as Twitter.
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2. Country Specific Laws Governing Internet Jurisdiction

Since the boom of domestic internet usage in the mid to late 1990’s, new laws have been created to help dictate what should be considered as correct and legal use of the internet. This section of the paper will document and explain some of the most significant laws to have been passed in an attempt to govern the internet. The first real act governing the use of data in the UK in response to the introduction of computerised systems and networks in an industrial capacity was the Data Protection Act (DPA), first introduced in 1983 and amended in both 1987 and 1998. The DPA does not have much jurisdiction over internet usage as it mainly governs the holding of data on computerised systems and can only be applied if data has been transferred over the internet in a way that does not comply with the DPA, for example if it has been sent from a company’s system that has the right to hold the data to a company’s system that has no right to hold the data. The majority of laws that have come into force governing the use of the internet have been aimed at child protection, a major issue on the internet. In the UK it is illegal both online and offline to:

  • Entice or coerce a child under 16 to engage in sexually explicit conduct

  • Import or transport obscenity using telecommunications public networks

  • Knowingly receive child pornography or advertise child pornography

  • Depict minors (or appear to be minor) engaged in sexually explicit conduct (even in pseudo-form)

  • Advertise sexually explicit conduct by giving the impression that minors are engaged in sexually explicit conduct

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