The provision of commercial electronic services over the Internet requires the respective support services for commercialization to be designed and implemented. This is due to the fact that Internet design principles do not focus on commercially offered services, as the Internet was shaped originally as a military and later as a research network which then grew into a global infrastructure offering a plethora of services made available to businesses and end consumers. The range of necessary support services for commercialization is determined by the according set of applicable commerce law determinations. To reach legal compliance, e.g., support mechanisms for reliable authentication, authorization, accounting, auditing, and charging (A4C) are being developed. These mentioned mechanisms, however, are not sufficient for full legal compliance, since they focus on the service provisioning phase, but do not cover the contract formation phase.
Commercial offerings for electronic services—in terms of an electronic good—base on contractual agreements. In the case of bilateral contracts, these are concluded between a service provider and a service customer, and the service is consumed by a service user, whereas service customer and service user can be different organizational bodies. Besides those support mechanisms mentioned, the formation of such contractual agreements itself is required to be legally compliant too.
Contract law is a part of commerce law, which in turn is part of private law. As contracts for electronic services in the Internet are considered, it is the task of so-called private international law to determine what specific contract type and what legislation is applicable for a given agreement. The Internet is a global infrastructure. However, it does not provide for a notion of geographical location. This is in contrast to any type of legal determination as these apply in a determined, geographically bound area only, typically within a territory.
With regard to an automated, legally compliant contract formation and in order to overcome this fundamental design gap between geographically un-aware organizational domains of the Internet and the inalienable territoriality principle of legal determinations, two distinct prerequisites need to be satisfied. First, a mapping between so-called Autonomous Systems (AS)—organizational domains in the Internet—and geographical location needs to be found. Secondly, mechanisms for stable communication paths between contractual parties have to be in place. The first is important to determine the geographical location of contract partners. This information forms the basis for the selection of the appropriate law according to the specific contract to be concluded. The second is of relevance, since not only the respective end systems of contract parties need to be considered but also the communication paths between. For instance, it might be required to assure that information is not conveyed through an unwanted legal domain. Driven by the overall context of legal compliance in contract formation given, and in accordance with those two prerequisites introduced, this thesis is concerned with the first prerequisite.
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Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stillerback to the main page