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Without much case history in terms of libel liability, we are currently at a formative point in time, where substantive legislation to address internet defamation issues is currently only on the horizon. How will we shape this legislation to take account of the ways the Internet will change the way we interact with others? How will we then further amend and leave room for adaptability of the law to accommodate for the rapidly changing face of the internet?

With the newly passed Telecommunications Act of 1996, many freedoms have been created in the interest of allowing more people to able to access the communications sector. Most importantly, through the Telecommunications Act it has been deemed that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another content publisher." Much of the ideas behind the Conduit Liability Law (an extension of common law), follow in this measure -- that no distributor will be held liable for content of disseminated work contingent on the condition that the distributor had no reasonable knowledge of the content prior to distribution.

However, with libel laws differing from state to state, from country to country, how do we deal with conflicting codes? In September 1997, the Second US Circuit Appeals ruled in the case of Bensusan Restaurant Corporation vs. King that the posting of a web site by a party based on one state does not automatically give a court in another state jurisdiction over that party. The Bensusan Restaurant Corporation fell into near bankruptcy due to the statements posted by King over a website. However, in a similar case concerning these same issues of jurisdiction, United States vs. Thomas, the court found that states did have jurisdiction over the Thomases, who had run a pornography site which was available to people living in Kentucky (where the images available were illegal). They were arrested and charged.

Certainly there is heavy debate regarding what kinds of powers of enforcement should be given to states, or even to other countries. At present, lawmakers are debating upon what standards these powers of jurisdiction should be based: content or type of illegal activity, origin and termination of activities or postings, international and national codes. There has been no simple solution as of yet in determining what guidelines will help create better legislation to deal with the global nature of the Internet. Currently the laws that deal with "cyberlibel" are not yet adaptive enough to deal in broad scope with the ways this new form of communication changes the legal climate of the country, and the rest of the world.

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