ABA Asks for Help on Web Jurisdictional Issues

In an effort to make the Web a more orderly place to do business, the American Bar Association’s business law section recently requested the support of government and business leaders in implementing the recommendations in its July 2000 report on Internet legal issues. Since the outcome of those proposals could affect businesses’ Internet strategy, they are useful reading for practitioners offering e-commerce consulting services.

The ABA study, Achieving Legal and Business Order in Cyberspace, which was developed by 100 “cyber-law” experts, examined how and when various governments’ laws apply to Web-based commerce. It proposed establishing a commission to analyze questions of Internet jurisdiction and to create uniform principles and standards to address them.

The report also recommended greater use of free, easily obtained software—known as “bots,” or robots—which developers constantly are refining. The ABA proposed the design of bots in which consumers could store their customer service preferences. Upon entering an e-commerce Web site, a consumer would instruct a bot to scan the site’s statements on, for example, privacy protection or merchandise warranties and returns, and report whether the site matches his or her requirements.

Other recommendations were adoption of technological standards that would enable businesses to impose geographic limits on commercial activity at their Web sites and requiring e-commerce participants to disclose their locations.

Recognizing its inability to single-handedly put these recommendations into practice, the ABA requested assistance from then-President Clinton and World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore. The ABA said the proposals, if implemented, could improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of e-commerce for businesses and consumers alike. The report is available on the Web at www.abanet.org/buslaw/cyber/initiatives/jurisdiction.html .


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