Traditional Notions of Fair Play and Substantial Justice in the Age of Internet Interconnectivity: How Masking an IP Address Could Constitute Purposeful Availment

Celia Kaechele
21 Yale J.L. & Tech. 59

Personal jurisdiction has been a time-honored judicial concept since the 1800s. The Supreme Court has considered the ramifications of personal jurisdiction and its application in various factual scenarios over the years, often leading to plurality opinions where the Justices disagreed on the reasoning behind the judgements. The confusion resulting from this lack of consensus over the doctrine’s application has been further compounded by advances in technology. Technology has enabled people to connect in new ways and the Court has struggled to reconcile this with the traditional minimum contacts analysis it first employed in International Shoe v. Washington.

Virtual Private Networks and proxies facilitate internet connections to servers located outside internet users’ home states. Some internet users rely on these technologies to specifically target a geographic area to obtain access to geographically restricted content. Others do not intentionally target a location, but only have a general awareness of their connection. Still others have no knowledge of the ultimate location of their IP address. By accessing servers outside their home state, these internet users could be establishing connections that give rise to the exercise of personal jurisdiction. This Article argues that the proper way to address this challenge is to continue to adapt the traditional personal jurisdiction analysis of International Shoe, with a focus on the intentionality of the user to avail themselves of a particular forum.