Starnet Faces Jurisdictional Obstacle

19 August 1999
Starnet Communications has filed a defamation lawsuit against Las Vegas Casino, Inc., but the likelihood of stopping the company from publishing what Starnet considers to be false statements on the Web is slim.

Earlier this month, Starnet filed suit with the Vancouver Registry of the Supreme Court of British Columbia against Las Vegas Casino, Claude Levy (the company's proprietor) and Levy's online publication, Gambling Magazine, for publishing reputation-damaging statements about Starnet. The company is also seeking a court order restraining the defendants from further writing or posting on the Internet or otherwise publishing defamatory statements. The statements, however, appear on Gambling Magazine, located at, which uses an ISP in London. The magazine dedicates an entire section to "Starnet's Huge Problems."

The question is whether or not the Canadian court has jurisdiction over a London-based ISP. There have been cases in the past where one country has filed suit against an ISP in another country - usually regarding sites that offer services that are illegal in a given area. In the Starnet case, however, there is little Canada can do to stop the London ISP from publishing the questionable page.

"Unless the country in which the ISP is located chooses to enforce the suit, there is nothing that prevents that ISP from publishing a site," said Margaret Stewart, a professor at the Chicago Kent School of Law.

"There was a Canadian case where the court refused to do that (file suit against a London-based ISP)," Stewart said. "Because it gets down to trying to convince the British courts to enforce a Canadian court decision. And you have a bunch of lower courts all over the place."

For now, Starnet will have to keep its head up and remain in a damage control mode. Shortly after filing the lawsuit, the company issued a press release stating that it will pursue legal action against anyone who "posts blatantly false defamatory statements that could potentially damage the credibility of our companies.'

Starnet declined to comment on the likelihood of putting a stop to Gambling Magazine's statements.