Nowadays, it is possible to pay one’s water bill, buy shoes, and order pizza for dinner in a few seconds. There is even no need to use the phone or leave the house. However, it has also become quite easy to find out someone’s personal information, steal credit card numbers, or gamble illegally with the same efficiency. A world-wide usage of the Internet and other modern technologies makes our daily living much comfortable. However, it has its drawbacks as well. Nowadays, many problems are caused by the updated technology, and cyber crimes are among them. Unfortunately, it is not easy to control and prevent this type of crime. Therefore, there is an imbalance in the jurisdictional system. Currently, the federal government is responsible for addressing jurisdiction issues in cases involving the Internet. Although I do believe that this sole responsibility of regulation does stretch the federal government thin, I do not think that it is possible for the state and the local jurisdictions to take over this task. First of all, this is because of the differences in the rules and power designated to the federal and state jurisdictions.
According to the Oxford Dictionaries, jurisdiction is defined as an authority granted to interpret and apply the law within a specific location. In the U.S., both the state and federal jurisdictions rely on one another with the federal having the upper hand. Although it does sound ideal for the state and local jurisdictions to ease the mind of the federal jurisdictions, their policies can only be implemented to a certain extent. State jurisdictions are solely responsible for their state; each state has different laws and regulations, and what is legal in one state may be illegal in another (Kaushik, 2010). When it comes to cyber crimes, the issue is that criminals are affecting people in and out of their states, leaving local and state jurisdictions basically helpless (Kaushik, 2010).
Because of the state-to-state and nation-to-nation law differences, establishing jurisdiction for the Internet crime cases becomes difficult. Unlike traditional cases, the Internet crimes are committed in the cyberspace, which is not a technical location. The Internet knows no location boundaries; therefore, the courts have to decide where the Internet conduct takes place and what evidence is actually available to exemplify the crimes’ effect on the state or nation (Kaushik, 2010). In terms of evidence, cyber crimes are complicated by the difficulty to compile substantial evidence and establish a full jurisdiction. For example, it is difficult to prove whether somebody actually downloaded child porn or visited an illegal gambling site. Besides, there are hackers who are capable of putting these files on someone else’s computer.
A good example of the cases that appear quite difficult in terms of jurisdiction is Yahoo! Inc., vs. LICRA (Shinder, 2002). In May 2000, a court in France ordered Yahoo! to remove Nazi items for sale, because it is illegal to sell Nazi-related objects in France (Shinder, 2002). Unfortunately for France, Yahoo! is a web service based out of the United States (Shinder, 2002). Yahoo! did not feel that France had the right to affect their sales and interfere with their first amendment rights, so they filed a case against the US courts (Shinder, 2002). In 2001, the US District Court issued that enforcing France’s request would indeed violate Yahoo!’s right to freedom of speech (Shinder, 2002). France counteracted this decision and took Yahoo! to trial in France for condoning war crimes (Shinder, 2002). Although Yahoo! was practicing their freedom of speech, this constitutional right did not cross nations. All in all, France won (Shinder, 2002). In this case, the crime was not considered illegal in the jurisdiction of the defendant but was illegal in France, where the criminal items could be accessed via the Internet.
In conclusion, defining jurisdiction in terms of cyber crimes is a very difficult task. Unfortunately, if the local and state jurisdictions took a greater control than federal jurisdictions, this would only complicate the issue even more. Hopefully, the rise in technology will also assist in handling cyber cases despite location and evidence discrepancies.
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