Internet Law Across International Borders

I thought David Johnson brought up some interesting points about the internet and physical territorial borders between nations. He talks about how borders are used for power by establishing laws to govern the people and things within the physical space defined by a border. Borders have the effect of keeping countries outside of a border from enforcing their own laws, beyond their own border. Legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed; the people within the borders most directly affected by the laws. Borders also provide notice to anyone crossing a border that the rules have changed.

All of this changes in interesting way when cyberspace is brought into the picture. Companies operating in/through cyberspace can easily circumvent the power and laws of a country established by a border. Ideas in cyberspace can have a global effect because the data exchanged in a network is not centralized. This as a result, can subvert legitimacy and notice because no group of people within any border can make a legitimate claim for regulating cyberspace activities.

This made me think about pirating and how copyright laws are enforced internationally. No doubt, a lot of the push for copyright law enforcement comes from the RIAA and the MPAA which both represent the recording and motion picture industries in the United States. As expected, these organizations want to limit and even stop the file sharing that allows people to download and distribute their media for free. But what has to happen for PirateBay servers in Sweden to get shut down or the owner of KickAssTorrents, a Ukrainian national, to get arrested in Poland.

Both of these countries, and others like it, hosting web sites associated with pirating, have significantly less than the US to preserve, or even gain, from fighting piracy. In some circumstances, these countries may not even have the resources to put up a good fight. Most of the pirated media is not produced in those countries. The people in those countries will likely see very little of the profits made, if any at all. So why would they care about fighting privacy? What motivates these countries into action?

My guess is that the motion picture and recording industries lobby the US government into pressuring other countries with signed treaties, agreements, or even economic trade sanctions. By not directly forcing US copyright law on these countries, the United States, and by extension the RIAA and MPAA, adhere to and respect the border policies David Johnson describes. But is this method legitimate? Do the actions taken by the Polish and Swedish government in the fight against piracy reflect the consent of their governed? Is it okay for foreign governments and businesses to have this kind of influence over the internet policy of other countries? How could this affect global internet policy?


47 thoughts on “Internet Law Across International Borders”

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