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Viewing a site's jurisdiction statement did not indicate consent, says US court

A statement on a website which said that use of the site indicates consent to settle all disputes in a particular court is not enforceable, a US court has ruled. Viewing the statement did not indicate consent, it said.20 Apr 2010

Companies are often keen to fight legal cases in one jurisdiction over another because the law is more familiar to them, is more favourable to their position or for simple cost reasons. Disputes over which court can try an issue can become fierce. That is particularly true in the US where state rather than federal law governs many disputes.

Suzanne Shell created sets of information and training materials for families dealing with state child protection services, then later sued a long list of people and organisations for what she said was unauthorised use of her copyrighted works.

Many of the people she sued claimed that the Colorado courts system had no jurisdiction over them. Shell said that many of them were subject to Colorado justice because they had used her website.

"Ms. Shell also argues that various Defendants are subject to the jurisdiction of this Court based on a forum selection clause contained on her website which states 'Anyone visiting this site consents to jurisdiction and venue remaining in El Paso County, Colorado'," said a ruling from US District Court for the District of Colorado.

"This, however, is not sufficient to subject these parties to the jurisdiction of this Court because Ms. Shell does not sufficiently allege that any Defendant manifested their intent to consent to this forum selection clause," said the judge, Marcia Krieger. "Absent such allegation, it would be unreasonable to exercise personal jurisdiction over the Defendants based solely on their viewing of this statement regarding jurisdiction."

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