Live Streamers Doing Business and “In Personam Jurisdiction”

Mitch Jackson is The Streaming LawyerPlease note that while I am a California lawyer, I am not your lawyer. No legal advice is being given. Contact a lawyer in your state with questions.

Many of us travel around the country to do business. If you’re live streaming while traveling on business, you should be aware of the legal principle commonly known as In Personam Jurisdiction.

When most people here this Latin phrase they think #WTF (and I don’t mean “Wow that’s fantastic!”). What this concept is all about is that when a lawsuit is brought against a person, that person must be properly served with a summons and complaint giving the court jurisdiction. Generally speaking, in order for someone to serve your with a summons and complaint and hold you individually accountable to appear and defend yourself, in their state, you must live, be physically present and/or do business in their state. There are exceptions and this is a complicated and much adjudicated concept.

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Live streaming business owners need to be aware of the following concepts:

Example #1: If you have a company based out of New York and are sued in California by a disgruntled citizen, and you neither live or do business in California, an argument can be made that the California courts do not have In Personam Jurisdiction over you as an individual. The California citizen cannot serve you with a lawsuit and force you to travel to California to defend yourself. He will need to travel to New York to pursue his alleged claims against you.

Example #2: In this example and in most states, if you are “doing business in another state” such as California (and this applies to internet businesses and sales), or are physically present in California, then California could very well have In Personam Jurisdiction over you. You could be forced to travel to California to defend yourself.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that if you are a live streamer as described in Example #1 and only do business in New York and lived in New York, but popped on Periscope while traveling in California to share and sell your products or services, a very strong argument could be raised that you have subjected yourself to In Personam Jurisdiction with the California courts. The fact that you are physically live streaming from within California, and talking about business, is probably enough for that state to have jurisdiction over you. This same concept applies to any live streams you may have participated in, from every state you physically visited, along the way.

The take-away is to simply understand that while it is easy to click and stream from almost anywhere in the world, doing so while traveling may subject you to the In Personam Jurisdiction of that particular state’s court system. I’m not suggesting this is going to happen to you but I did want to bring this to your attention.

If you have a question about this, please contact a lawyer in your state.

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Author: Mitch Jackson

I'm a California trial lawyer trying to fix the world one client, cause, and digital interaction at a time.

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