Long Arm of Internet Law

Careful what you say online – the long arm of internet law is growing.

The long arm of the law got a little longer this spring for people who participate in Internet discussion groups.

In the case of Bochan v. La Fontaine, a federal district court in Alexandria, ruled that a Texas resident could be sued in Virginia because he allegedly used his AOL account to post a defamatory message to a USEnet newsgroup. According to the ruling, such use of an email account gives the state jurisdiction because the message was initially stored and published on a computer server located in Virginia.

Due to the high costs and inconvenience of defending oneself in an out-of-state law suit, the ruling should be an important reminder that “free” speech means responsible speech. You can get sued for what you say on the Internet and as a result, and if you do get sued – you could possibly lose everything you own.

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