Publication: Social Networking Sites: An Overview of Applicable Law Issues
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Social Networking Sites (SNS) as global providers of Internet services raise new challenges in the field of conflict of laws. The most prominent service providers have their headquarters in the US and their business models allow them to offer global services to users around the world under the same terms or conditions. SNS providers typically have recourse to standard terms intended to be applicable to all their users and include choice of forum and choice of law clauses in favour of US courts and US laws. Against this background, the present contribution analyzes applicable law issues raised by social networking sites from the perspective of the European Union (and its Member States). The article addresses the position of SNS providers in the light of the EU harmonization rules on e-commerce and the influence of the place of establishment in the scope of obligations imposed on them. Also the law applicable to the agreements concluded with users is discussed focusing on the implications of their possible characterization as consumer contracts and on the aspects related to the formation of the contract. Determining the law applicable to online activities involving SNS is also essential for the protection of rights and interests of third parties, in particular with regard to intellectual property and personality rights. Additionally, the effective enforcement of EU law to Internet activities in key areas such as data protection requires now determining the mandatory scope of international application of EU or national law with respect to the activities of SNS.