Mecklermedia case raises Net questions

A RECENT groundbreaking High Court case suggests web sites may have to conform to laws from every country, no matter where they are hosted.

And issues raised by the Mecklermedia v DC Congress case (see The Lawyer, 1

April) will only be resolved when a treaty is signed by every country in the world, said Olswang solicitor Paul Stevens, who acted for US publisher Mecklermedia.

The outcome of the March case, decided in the Chancery Division of the High Court, suggests web sites must comply with the law worldwide.

Mecklermedia, publisher of Internet World, was in dispute with German trade show organiser DC Congress over a show organised by DC Congress, also called Internet World. The case centred on whether a web site had to comply with the laws of every country or just the country where the web site was hosted.

Stevens, a specialist in intellectual property matters, said: "This was the first UK case where the content of a web site, not the domain name, was at stake, and the result suggests that the contents of the web site must comply with every legal system in the world."

Mr Justice Jacob, deciding in favour of Mecklermedia, said: "When an enterprise wants to use a mark or word throughout the world… it must take into account that in some places, if not others, there may be confusion… I do not think it is surprising that [the defendant] is met with [legal] actions in places where confusion is considered likely."