Wednesday, December 11, 2002

More on the Aussie court ruling. The Phoenix's Seth Gitell called my attention to this excellent editorial in today's Wall Street Journal. The Journal, in turn, reports that Stakhanovite blogger Glenn Reynolds has been all over it. Well, not quite; but Reyolds does direct his readers to an op-ed piece he wrote for the Australian, making the argument that the court's ruling raises concerns similar to those posed by space travel a half-century ago:

Each nation's territory thus consisted of a wedge beginning at the Earth's core and continuing infinitely upward and outward. This posed a number of absurdities, but the greatest difficulty was to orbiting spacecraft. Flying over a nation's territory without permission was illegal, perhaps even an act of war.

Similarly, Reynolds notes, holding the New Jersey-based Barron's to the libel standards of Australia simply because the Barron's website is available in Australia means that

internet publishers -- simply by choosing to publish on the internet -- are held to be subject to the various laws of every nation reached by the internet, which means, of course, of every nation on earth. The results are likely to be damaging for the internet, encouraging a lowest common denominator approach in which internet publishers strive not to be offensive according to anyone's standards, which is likely to mean not publishing at all, or publishing only inoffensive pap.

I've already gotten several e-mails suggesting that this is no big deal. Folks, this is a big deal.

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