The internet, like all other fields of human activity, is subject to law. However, the internet is also borderless and this poses significant challenges for courts.
Courts will act against illegal activity on the internet. And, in the right circumstances, courts will grant global orders if a local order will not be enough to address the problem.
We were counsel on the leading case in Canada that addresses these issues. In Equustek v. Google, Madam Justice Fenlon of the BC Supreme Court wrote:
-  E-commerce has exponentially increased the difficulty of determining whether a company is carrying on business in a particular jurisdiction; it raises the spectre of a company being found to carry on business all over the world, just as Google submits with some alarm. Kevin Meehan comments in “The Continuing Conundrum of International Internet Jurisdiction” (2008) 31 BC Int’l & Comp L Rev 345 at 349:
In the traditional analog world, it is relatively easy for courts to determine the geographical locations of the persons, objects, and activities relevant to a particular case. The geography of the digital world of the Internet, however, is not as easily charted. Content providers may physically reside, conduct their business, and locate their servers in a particular location, yet their content is readily accessible from anywhere in the world. Furthermore, attempts to identify the location of a particular user over the Internet have proven extremely difficult, and many Internet users compound this problem by intentionally hiding their location. Traditional principles of international jurisdiction, particularly territoriality, are poorly suited for this sort of environment of geographic anonymity. Courts have struggled to develop a satisfactory solution, yet no progress has been made toward a uniform global standard of Internet jurisdiction.
-  In short, courts have traditionally focused on locating the behaviour in issue within a particular state’s borders to ensure that “the connection between a state and a dispute cannot be weak or hypothetical [so as to] cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the exercise of state power over the persons affected by the dispute” [Van Breda at para. 32]. Online activities, whether commercial or otherwise, are not so easily pigeonholed.
-  The Court must adapt to the reality of e-commerce with its potential for abuse by those who would take the property of others and sell it through the borderless electronic web of the internet. I conclude that an interim injunction should be granted compelling Google to block the defendants’ websites from Google’s search results worldwide. That order is necessary to preserve the Court’s process and to ensure that the defendants cannot continue to flout the Court’s orders.
When Google appealed, organizations representing the global film and television industries (FIAPF) and music recording industries (IFPI), as well as the US Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) intervened.
The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the order against Google. Mr. Justice Groberman wrote:
-  I note that the courts of many other jurisdictions have found it necessary, in the context of orders against Internet abuses, to pronounce orders that have international effects. Several such cases are cited in the arguments of FIAPF/IFPI, including APC v. Auchan Telecom, ... (Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris); McKeogh v. Doe (Irish High Court ...); Mosley v. Google, ... (Tribunal de Grand Instance de Paris); Max Mosley v. Google ... and ECJ Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Española de Protecciób de Datos, Mario Costeja González, C-131/12 , CURIA.
-  I do not suggest that these rulings have been without controversy or problems (see, for example, La Ligue contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme c. La Société YAHOO!Inc., Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris ... and YAHOO! INC. v. La Ligue contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme, ... The extensive case law does indicate, however, that international courts do not see these sorts of orders as being unnecessarily intrusive or contrary to the interests of comity.