My site is hosted in the US. The domain was bought from an Indian vendor, and is being developed in India by an individual. There is no registered office or anything of that sort.

The site's content might be illegal in India, but is completely legal in the USA.

Is this website under USA or Indian jurisdiction, and how could it be moved from one to the other?

  • What what purpose? Do you mean "is it legal to publish this content?" or do you mean "I am selling stuff, where will customer's be able to sue?" or do you mean "I am selling stuff, where will I have to pay taxes?" Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:23
  • Also, do not forget there is a third option: It falls under both jurisdictions. Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:23
  • @MartinBonner The site's content "might" indirectly be illegal in India, but is completely legal in the USA. Can you please refer to the question and comments here law.stackexchange.com/q/21988/13153 for a better understanding of the context? Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:27
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    That's not necessarily a meaningful question. For example, it might be possible for the Indian authorities to prosecute you in India for publishing it (you're doing from there and are physically present in the country) while being unable to shut it down. You need to specify what you are concerned about: censorship, criminal law, liability, etc.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 21:58
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    Does this answer your question? Which country's jurisdiction applies on youtube channels?
    – user4657
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


Websites are not ships that can choose a flag of convenience to govern which country's laws govern them. Generally speaking an analysis of which jurisdiction's law applies (which is strictly speaking a "choice of law" question as much as it is a jurisdiction question) isn't undertaken on a website by website, or business by business basis.

Instead, jurisdiction and choice of law are evaluated on a claim by claim basis. The owners of a website may be subject to some claims in India, to some in Bhutan, and to others in the United States, depending upon the claim. Without knowing who is trying to sue for what, you can't know.

Generally speaking, a business that operates in multiple jurisdictions, like a website, will be subject to the laws of all of the jurisdictions in which it does business in regard to claims with a connection to those jurisdictions. Of course, as a practical matter, only claims that can be enforced against the owners of the website are relevant, which usually means that only claims brought where the owners reside or own assets are relevant.

If the website owners own property or have amounts payable to them in India, there is a very good chance that India can, as a practical matter, assert jurisdiction over them. And, it is likely, as a practical matter, that Saudi Arabia or China would not be able to assert jurisdiction over them in a meaningful way.

The fact that businesses can be conducted through legal entities further complicates the analysis.

But, at any rate, the place to begin is to realize that the question "Under which country's jurisdiction does a website fall?" is basically a category error. You need to ask "Under which country's jurisdiction does a website fall when it is sued or prosecuted for X kind of matter by someone who lives in Y?" So, really, this one question is actually dozens or hundreds of questions that each have to be analyzed individually.

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    While I in general agree with your answer, I think it should be stressed that a website is not a "thing" in itself that can be vulnerable to jurisdiction. The persons and property are. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 7:52
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    Ohwilleke is right that que question is multiple and complicated. However, you can be rather sure that uploading content from country X to a web hosted in country Y falls both in X and Y jurisdiction, and if such content is illegal in X or Y you are facing legal consequences (more likely removal of content if it is illegal in Y, and more likely fines or imprisonment if it's illegal in X).
    – Pere
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 9:13
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    A website is a "thing". At the very least it would be a literary or graphical work, subject to copyright and possible trademark limitations, according to the jurisdiction in which it is published. Who might be responsible for it would be another question.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 2:49

It falls under the jurisdiction of every nation state where it can be accessed i.e. pretty much all of them.

  • According to case law, this is accurate in only a minority of US jurisdictions.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 23:44
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    @A.fm. "State" in this context means nation state - I will edit to make this clear
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 23:52
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    Oh, gotcha. Sorry then!
    – A.fm.
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 23:56
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    I'm researching this and it's a complicated issue. In fact, it is unsettled thus far.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 3:01

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