with a website created in Belgium, hosted on google app engine, which county's laws does my site need to obey? I know that as a company, you have to obey the law of the country where you are based, but how does that go for a website? Do you have to obey to the laws of every country from where inhabitants can visit your site?

  • IANAL but I suspect that if you violate the law of the hosting nation that your site will be shut down though you will not necessarily be subject to prosecution.
    – Rig
    Dec 6, 2011 at 18:52
  • but as far as I know, app engine doesn't tell you where your site is hosted. I hope that following app engine's ToS means that I comply with any regulation sites hosted there should follow.
    – bigblind
    Dec 6, 2011 at 19:09
  • I have read the ToS and I don't see any explicit statements regarding this however all legal verbage is tied to US law. Google has to abide by US law therefor their content will. Posting snippet as answer.
    – Rig
    Dec 6, 2011 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


16.10 Governing Law. For City, County, and State Government Entities. If Customer is a city, county or state government entity, then the parties agree to remain silent regarding governing law and venue. For Federal Government Entities. If Customer is a federal government entity then the following applies: This Agreement will be governed by and interpreted and enforced in accordance with the laws of the United States of America without reference to conflict of laws. Solely to the extent permitted by federal law: (i) the laws of the State of California (excluding California’s choice of law rules) will apply in the absence of applicable federal law; and (ii) FOR ANY DISPUTE ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THIS Agreement, THE PARTIES CONSENT TO PERSONAL JURISDICTION IN, AND THE EXCLUSIVE VENUE OF, THE COURTS IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA. For All Other Entities. If Customer is any entity not set forth in Section 16.10(a) or (b) then the following applies: This Agreement is governed by California law, excluding that state’s choice of law rules. FOR ANY DISPUTE ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THIS Agreement, THE PARTIES CONSENT TO PERSONAL JURISDICTION IN, AND THE EXCLUSIVE VENUE OF, THE COURTS IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA.

Source: Google App Engine ToS


In most cases, it's probably hosted in the country your Google account is affiliated with. What types of laws are you worried about violating? The U.S. has started holding foreign web companies to U.S. laws if their intended audience are U.S. citizens. It doesn't matter where your servers are located. So if your site targets U.S. consumers and breaks U.S. laws, then you could face prosecution in the U.S. This was enacted in response to internet gambling sites which were hosted in the Bahamas.

Recently, some U.S. lobbies and politicians have also begun pushing for an internet blacklist bill that would allow the government (and private companies whose influential lobbies are backing this bill) to arbitrarily shutdown access to websites without due process or any opportunity for the accused to defend itself. In fact, even just making reference to a site on this blacklist would be cause for your site to be added to the blacklist as well.

In this case, if you're not in the U.S., you won't face prosecution, but your site would effectively cease to exist for U.S. web users. It's basically an American version of the Great Firewall of China and similar censorship infrastructure that exists in Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. (the technology for which was conveniently sold to these repressive governments by American companies).

Even though the bill (which copyright lobbies had attempted to push through congress in different guises over the years) was finally passed by the Senate this year, a temporary hold has been placed on it by senator Ron Wyden. But if the overwhelming opposition to it by the general public as well as tech industry heavyweights like Google, Yahoo!, eBay, the EFF, and the founders of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, as well as American Express, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and others are unable to get the proposed law revoked, then many sites that allows user-generated content, like YouTube, Twitter, etc. would all be in a lot of trouble.

  • Here is what my site will do, it's content are basically a lot of youtube videos, users can place youtube videos on the site, but only if the holder of their account in my site, is also the holder of the account that posted the vid on youtube, this is for non-legal reasons. I declare in my ToS that youtube's policies that apply to their videos, also apply on my site, but I have no idea what I should do regarding written content, i'm thinking to about placing that under a creative commons license, or something like that, I just started figuring this stuff out, so I don't know much about it.
    – bigblind
    Dec 6, 2011 at 21:01
  • @Frederik: AFAICT, you don't have much to worry about there. You can specify any kind of license for content that users post directly to your site, as long as your TOS lets users know this beforehand. And YouTube has never had a problem with other sites embedding their videos. They welcome it. So the only thing you have to worry about is if users start posting potentially illegal content to your site. The internet blacklist bill would apply to your site in this case. Dec 7, 2011 at 15:43
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    Let's hope that SOPA gets revoked then, I'm not from the US, so I have no representative to call, but I signed several petitions, aned am telling everyone I know to do so.
    – bigblind
    Dec 7, 2011 at 18:06

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