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International Law Issue


New Member
I host a website that criticizes a certain branch of English local government. A lawfirm this agency hired has contacted us, asking us to remove the website because it violates English law (specifically defamation, libel, and an obscure clause of one of the Representation of the People Acts). The servers are located in the United States, as I am, and therefore, to my knowledge, protected by the Constitution and the various court rulings that bend the interpretation of the First Amendment in favor of political statements. However, this law firm claims that since the content is mainly accessed from the United Kingdom, that it is subject to the jurisdiction of the "High Court of England and Wales."

How does international law apply in this issue? I know that China censors certain items from the United States, but that's censored on their end. It's not like China is threatening legal action against the American sites it doesn't like. If you want to get techincal, the local governments in England couldn't sue an American citizen for making political comments (wrong or right) about that government over the phone to a Briton... That is essentially what this is, except in electronic print.
Putting a website on the internet means it can be accessed by anyone from any country. The fact that this specific website is mainly accessed from the UK doesn't mean you have to obide to their law. You are in the United States and therefore should comply to those laws therein. You should however contact the owner of the website telling them that they might have to edit some content. I am not a legal advisor and have never been but that's how I see things.
If the site is hosted within the US. Nothing they can do.

First amendment will protect the site and its owner as long as it doesn't violate US law. Otherwise, there isn't any international law that affects US citizens... China on the other hand, their issue... China actually requires Chinese ISP's to block certain US content. As did Google, google had to filter searches etc in order to be unblocked from chinese ISP's.

So no the law firm is wrong. Since it is hosted here it is governed by US law and not by any UK court. Just to be nice, I would do as Hostmaze suggested and ask the user to change the content but the user only has to do that out of the goodness of their heart....No disciplinary action can be taken if they don't.

(I guess if you wanted to be critical...you could change your tos and tell the user they are violating your TOS but if it were me, I'd tell the law firm that life is hard and bad press happens =))
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I wouldn' t say there is nothing they can do, certainly no court will side with them, however, for something to get that far, it will inevitabley cost you money.
So that's one thing they can do, they may be well aware of the facts, and just pushing you into a corner.
Think about what you do carefully, wether you have to abide by it or not, it's always a good idea to play nice where the law is concerned.

Good luck....
I would be very cautious on this one...
"English law (specifically defamation, libel, "
That sounds like someone has done some research.
This can transcend international boundaries!
Take the safe option... change the names to aviod
pointing directly at the guilty people, and hint.
Well, there are two issues here. One is the liability of your company. if your company is based in the US, it is only liable as per US laws and it is protected by US laws.

You have nothing to worry about in terms of liability. Unless you were threatened to be sued in a US court of law or were issued a legal notice by a US law firm, there is nothing to worry about.

However, given the global nature of web hosting, if certain content hosted by your servers is illegal in a certain country... you MAY wish to respond to a legal threat from that country because while they could not hold you or your company liable, they could use any local or federal laws in that country to seek a ban on your business activity in that country or force a block of your servers. For example, you may want to be worried if such a threat came from China. However I do not think the UK has enacted any such laws that forces ISPs to block websites under a legal order due to a civil dispute. But it is always good to have a legal consultant to who you can talk to
I totally agree with JodoHost, but I would just tell the user that you have recieved a message of such and ask him nicely to just not make the content be so much againist a person/goverment.
You should really consult your lawyer, and if your company does not have a lawyer get one. If I got a notice like that I would call my lawyer the next business day and ask his opinion. Every serious business should have a lawyer. Mine handled setting up a corporation, is reveiwing my TOS for me and is tyhere for anything like this that comes up.
Yes, i agree with Yash and Galaxy-Hosts. Try getting a legal consultant to advice you on this better as it is better to do it early and not regret later.
If your server is NOT located in the UK and you are also not
located in the UK and have no part of your network in the UK
then they are absolutely wrong and your servers are not subject
to british law nor is any site hosted on your servers.

They would be unable to do anything about the web site itself legally
speaking but they could go after your customer personally if your customer
is located in the UK but that is about as far as they can go.

If they don't like UK citizens viewing the site then they would need to
go after their own citizens or put in a government controlled block to
prevent their citizens from reaching the site. Legally speaking they
have no jurisdiction outside their own territory.

For more specific details, you might want to consult legal counsel

Hope that helps ...

... that country to seek a ban on your business activity in that country or force a block of your servers. For example, you may want to be worried if such a threat came from China.
If only one could be so lucky! We'd probably welcome an internal block from China! ROFL
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ecsportal said:
If the site is hosted within the US. Nothing they can do.

Thats what you think, if your messing with big firm or big client or agency your in for a ride. They can easily hack your site and kill your server, you up for that?

Trust me you dont want to go against any governmental agecies of any country. There are others ways to make you remove that content.