by Lee Gesmer
From the Summer 2004 Issue of the Technology Law Bulletin
While there are now many cases where the courts in one state have exercised jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant based on the publication of an interactive Internet web site, cases involving the exercise of jurisdiction based on e-mail lists are rare. Recently, the Massachusetts federal district court decided that a Texas company that sent its mailings to 8,000 subscribers, including 60 Massachusetts residents, is subject to jurisdiction in a defamation action brought against it in Massachusetts by a Massachusetts company. To oversimplify slightly, in this case, First Act, Inc. v. Brook Mays Music Company, the court analogized an e-mail list to newspaper subscriptions: because Brook Mays (the Texas defendant) controlled its e-mail list, it must be held to the knowledge that it was sending its e-mail newsletter into Massachusetts, where First Act is based, and where the injury would be suffered. The lesson to be learned from this case is that the courts continue to be willing to extend jurisdiction arising from Internet-based contacts, and any company that uses the Internet to communicate out-of-state, no matter how minor the contacts, should conduct a risk assessment before assuming that it doesn’t risk an out-of-state lawsuit.