Why the Internet Isn’t Special: Restoring Predictability to Personal Jurisdiction

Two decades ago, the advent of the Internet triggered an uproar in personal jurisdiction doctrine because of the difficulty of analyzing electronic contacts. Since that time, courts and commentators have struggled to devise a solution to the supposed problem of evaluating an electronic contact. Courts have developed an array of different approaches, and commentators have advocated for a variety of reforms. The result is a tangled web of analyses that actually undermines a key principle underlying personal jurisdiction: predictability. This Note attempts to restore predictability to the doctrine by clarifying why the Internet should not alter personal jurisdiction analysis. By classifying cases based on fact patterns, this Note illustrates that traditional personal jurisdiction analysis properly functions in actions involving the Internet. The taxonomy also pinpoints a narrow class of Internet cases where courts consistently do not find jurisdiction. This is not a sign that the doctrine is not working in these cases, but rather an indication that exercising jurisdiction in such instances does not comport with due process.