PhD Defence: Enforcement Jurisdiction on the Internet – Caught Between Clay and Cloud


On 21 June, Mark Zoetekouw will defend his thesis Enforcement Jurisdiction on the Internet  Caught Between Clay and Cloud. Law enforcement on the internet, and the (cross-border) investigation it requires, challenge our traditional notions of territorial jurisdiction and the concept of ‘sovereignty’. The rules of international law, which have long governed the interaction between states and cross-border enforcement, are no longer adequate. A possible route for the lawful detection of cybercrime, where previously there was none, lies in a new international legal justification – as this research concludes.

This thesis addresses the problems that arise where inherently state-based enforcement and the internet meet. Enforcement jurisdiction to date has been strictly territorial, while the internet is designed to make physical location as irrelevant as possible. This has significantly increased ever-present problems in cross-border detection. Solutions to this are slow to materialise and have proved insufficiently effective. States, faced with increasing impunity for cybercrimes, are increasingly resorting to unlawful unilateralism to try to stem the tide. 

This study approaches the problem from the ground up, analysing the basic principles of jurisdiction, the concepts and technology that shape the internet and the concept of sovereignty in the past and present in relation to the rules of international law that have long governed the interaction between states and cross-border enforcement. A perfect solution has not been found, nor is it possible where two systems based on almost diametrically opposed principles meet.

Nonetheless, this thesis proposes a solution to the legal impasse often created by loss-of-knowledge-of-location in enforcement against cybercrime in a broad sense. This solution comes in the form of a new ground for justification in international law for when a state's law enforcement efforts end within another state's territory and is based on a detailed analysis of current international law and the rationale behind the current legal rules.

While the solution described does not solve all the problems of cross-border enforcement, it does provide an option for lawful detection of cybercrime where there was none before.

Start date and time
End date and time
University Hall (Domplein 29, Utrecht) and online
PhD candidate
M. Zoetekouw
Enforcement Jurisdiction on the Internet – Caught Between Clay and Cloud
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. dr. C.M.J. Ryngaert
Dr. M. van der Linden - Smith