Thursday, July 28, 2011

Legal Territorial Jurisdiction

I have a paper - hopefully forthcoming, details to follow - in which I claim that the law subjects everyone globally to coercion, because (for instance) a law requiring that people drive on the left in the UK applies equally to all persons driving in the UK. I think an awful lot of political philosophy/theory gets things wrong by focusing on people, rather than territory, though I understand that there have been recent moves to redress this (for instance Chris Bertram's Territory and Justice network).

Anyway, I was struck by this case, reported on the BBC. The case centres on George 'Star Wars' Lucas suing the man who originally made Storm Trooper helmets (Mr Ainsworth) for selling them, on the grounds that he (Ainsworth) no longer owned the copyright. As the BBC reports:

"Lucasfilm sued for $20m in 2004, arguing Mr Ainsworth did not hold the intellectual property rights and had no right to sell them - a point upheld by a US court.
But the judgement could not be enforced because the designer held no assets in the US, so the battle moved to the UK.

The interesting point, made explicit in an earlier version of the story, but not as clear now, is that the UK court upheld the US decision that Ainsworth could not sell the helmets in the US. This, I think, raises interesting issues, though I'm insufficiently clear on either the details of the case or the necessary legal theory. It looks to me though as if the UK court's decision binds a British citizen not to do something in US territory...

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