It's been an issue that's plagued media types since the Internet first started becoming popular. How do you create local and national laws for a medium that spans national boundaries? Well, at least that argument's been decided in Australia. Back in 1998 Melbourne businessman Joseph Gutnick sued American publisher Dow Jones for defamation through a subscription newsletter on Barron's, an online magazine that has some of its subscribers in Australia. Dow Jones felt that any defamation case should take place in New Jersey, where the company's servers are based. Gutnick's lawyers argued that the defamation took place where the article was published, i.e. anywhere it could be downloaded and read off the internet, in this case Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The Victorian Supreme court agreed with Gutnick.
The case was appealed through to the High Court and has finally been resolved in Gutnick's favour.
The Australian - "Sore Losers Take a Swipe"
I'm still undecided how to take this. While I'm wary of any regulation that puts potential limits on the flow of information on the internet, I believe there should be rules in place to prevent irresponsible journalism. The problem is if it goes too far.
"...the principle has been adopted and expanded in Canada, where a former African diplomat successfully sued The Washington Post for an article that was read on the web in Ontario.
In a frightening outcome for publishers, Cheickh Bangoura - a UN official accused of misconduct - did not live in Canada at the time of the publication. He moved to the country much later. The decision is the subject of an appeal."
I looked into Gutnick in a recent assignment on the validity of information on the Internet. Check it out here.