If a problem arises that might cause someone to try to sue someone else, the person bringing the suit usually makes a decision regarding which court they will bring the case in. This is known as "forum selection."
If you have a web site that people can access for free and it isn't interactive, chances may be that you can successfully argue that your website is only located in the state where it is written. But, when you start charging someone else money to access a web site, or add interactive elements to the site such as a unique login, there are a number of new risks that you may face.
One of those is that a court might make a decision that your website is now located in any number of locations because it is actively engaged in commerce in those other locations.
That's where a forum selection clause comes in. It isn't difficult to make a forum selection clause a part of the conditions to subscription to the website. Keep it simple, easy to find and understand, and in plain english.
To find out more, an article in Online Journalism Review from last November covers forum selection in The Revenue Booby trap.
- William Slawski