Another Jurisdictional Ruling

3 July 1999
BBC News reported Thursday that a U.K. judge has handed down a decision that the content of American Web sites can fall under British jurisdiction. The ruling stems from a case involving Graham Waddon, who runs of the U.K.'s largest porn operations, and had established several highly pornographic Web sites in the U.S.

The judge dismissed the argument that Waddon's site was published outside the U.K., deciding instead that the content was published in the country when Waddon transmitted the material to the Web sites and when the content was downloaded by U.K. police.

The ruling went against the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984, which holds that every computer involved in cases such as this must have a certificate showing it was in working condition. The judge said this task was impossible and ruled that only the computer receiving the material needed to have the certificate. After the ruling, Waddon pled guilty to 11 sample counts of publishing obscene articles online.

"It has massive implications for the fight against crime of all sorts," said Neal Ysart of the Obscene Publications and Internet Unit. The case also represented the largest U.K. Internet porn operation that has been caught by authorities so far, Ysart said.

A similar case in the state of California last month had the opposite outcome. The court ruled that the state does not have jurisdiction over servers located out of California. The ruling, along with similar court decisions, implies that state jurisdiction would be permitted only in circumstances where the operator makes an active effort to recruit California customers.