What is jurisdiction?

Posted in: Ryan Kopf's Blog

Several months ago I began a lawsuit against a website and its operators for their statements against me, which were often in my opinion libelous (untrue) and malicious.

They called me a lot of names, which, in today’s internet age is altogether common. Fact-checking and talking to people are far more time consuming than simply writing without regard to other people.

Now, you may think, “Buck up, guy.” Obviously the world isn’t going to always be a friendly place, and sometimes you’re going to deal with unpleasant people. But, this being the internet, their statements embolden others, faceless-and-anonymous, to make even more outrageous lies or statements. This has been part of the basis of our lawsuit against them. If you repeatedly say John Smith robs banks and tortures animals, you’re going to get a mob going, even if you’ve completely made up those stories.

So we sued them in my home state, Iowa, where my work is based.

But the lawsuit in Iowa was dismissed over jurisdictional issues – because they’ve not done business in Iowa, we couldn’t sue them in Iowa, even though that’s where our events are based. The premise behind jurisdiction makes sense – imagine if a company in California could drag you to California, where you never visit, for a lawsuit. It would be very tough. Of course, Iowa is merely one or two states away from their home states, but the Defendants claim to not do business in Iowa.

When a lawsuit is dismissed for jurisdiction, the courts are saying “go somewhere else.” No final decisions have been made beyond that, and you can continue pursuing your action.

Calling someone villainous or trying to convince people not to support their business is a cause for legal action. You can’t stand outside of a car-wash with a sign saying “Their soap causes cancer” unless it’s true.

So, we are still able to pursue a new venue.

Aside from Iowa, there are three places that may be considered proper. Wisconsin and Indiana are places the defendants live. However I don’t do business in either state. That leaves Illinois, a place where they have done business. We’re now suing them in Illinois, a jurisdiction that should be proper and equally fair for everyone, as all the parties have done business in Illinois.

Why am I suing them?

Because you can’t just make stuff up online without repercussion. The things they’ve written, which, again, were usually untrue, turned away business from the conventions. If you go around telling people “Blank is a bad person,” often enough, they’re going to start taking your word. But that’s not fair to Blank.

It’s really really easy to make stuff up on the internet.

I own the moon.

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