Determining Jurisdiction in Cyberspace – The Zippo Test or Effects Test​​

Divya MB
School of Excellence in Law, The Tamilnadu Dr Ambedkar Law University, Chennai, India.

Volume IV, Issue I, 2021

Unlike the conventional world, territorial borders do not exist in the virtual world. On the internet, there are neither political barrirers nor any territorial demarcations. The cyberspace is one single space devoid of any national boundaries. This global medium has transformed the world into one single community; one single ‘globalEngagingg in online activities are no longer a novel experience yet, there are many unresolved issues unexpended in determining the jurisdiction over the individual which is a fundamental legal threshold in order to pursue one’s legal rights. There are two principal modes of testing the jurisdiction have moved to the forefront. One is the “Zippo Test”, after the case in which it was first articulated which bases jurisdiction over a non-resident website on the degree of interactivity between the website and the forum. This test has been found by the cyberlawyers, scholors and many Courts to be inexact and therefore not particularly helpful. Consequently, the “Effects” test has evolved which focuses on the effects intentionally caused within the forum by a defendant’s online conduct outside the forum. After summarizing the background and evolution of both the Zippo and Effects tests, this article demonstrates that the Courts are not embracing the Effects test as a panacea to the dilemma of determining jurisdiction, but rather a combination of both the Zippo and the Effects test is being employed. Oftentimes a Court will begin it’s case analysis of with the Zippo test but completes the jurisdictional determination using the Effects test. It is therefore to be advisable for attorneys advocating jurisdiction to use both the tests, since the effects test may work where the sliding scale of Zippo might not.