Legal and Geographic Issues on the Internet Essay

2049 Words 9 Pages
Legal and Geographic Issues on the Internet

Abstract Many states and nations have conflicting laws regarding what type of digital content is legal. When content is legal at its place of origin but illegal where it is downloaded the laws become unenforceable because no single jurisdiction applies. International cooperation and Internet fragmentation are potential solutions, but neither is currently viable. This paper discusses how the transfer of content across geographic boundaries on the Internet impacts the legal system.

The Internet has connected the world like no previous technology ever could. It allows nearly instant communication and data access across the entire globe. Internetworking technologies
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Because of jurisdiction conflicts, modern law enforcement has been unable to control, prevent, or prosecute crimes such as these. In fact, the Internet has completely destroyed national law boundaries and legal notions of geography. Thus, modern law enforcement has no power to enforce laws on-line. The solutions to this problem would be either to establish worldwide standards of law, to which all countries would agree, or establish the ability to control data flow across borders and enforce national laws. Unfortunately, neither of these options is currently feasible.

Let us begin by examining what constitutes illegal content. Examples of such content include pornography, gambling web sites, copyrighted material, and trademarks. The problem is that there are few, if any, types of content that are illegal for everyone, everywhere. Pornography, for example, is legal in the United States depending on age while in Japan it depends on specific content. Old content may only be under copyright in some countries but be public domain in others. Trademarks may carry special exceptions for use in limited geographic areas. There are even countries in the world were child pornography is not prosecuted, and so such content can be found on the web.

Until now, laws and institutions have relied heavily on national boundaries or on geography for definitions
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