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Epic’s Fight to #freefortnite: Challenging Exclusive Foreign Choice of Court Agreements under Australian Law

By Sarah McKibbin, University of Southern Queensland

Epic Games, the developer of the highly popular and lucrative online video game Fortnite, recently won an appeal against tech juggernaut, Apple, in Australia’s Federal Court.[1] Fortnite is played by over three million Apple iOS users in Australia.[2] In April 2021, Justice Perram awarded Apple a temporary three-month stay of proceedings on the basis of an exclusive foreign choice of court agreement in favour of the courts of the Northern District of California. Despite awarding this stay, Justice Perram was nevertheless ‘distinctly troubled in acceding to’ Apple’s application.[3] Epic appealed to the Full Court.

On 9 July, Justices Middleton, Jagot and Moshinsky found three errors of principle in Justice Perram’s consideration of the ‘strong reasons’ given by Epic for the proceedings to remain in the Federal Court — despite the exclusive foreign choice of court agreement.[4] Exercising its own discretion, the Full Court then found ‘strong reasons’ for the proceedings to remain in the Federal Court, particularly because enforcement of the choice of court agreement would ‘offend the public policy of the forum.’[5] They discerned this policy from various statutory provisions in Australia’s competition law as well as other public policy considerations.[6] The appeal highlights the tension that exists between holding parties to their promises to litigate abroad and countenancing breaches of contract where ‘serious issues of public policy’ are at play.[7]

1          Exclusive Choice of Foreign Court Agreements in Australia

Australians courts will enforce an exclusive choice of court agreement favouring a foreign court either by granting a stay of local proceedings or by awarding damages for breach of contract. The usual approach is for the Australian court to enforce the agreement and grant a stay of proceedings ‘unless strong reasons are shown why it should not.’[8] As Justice Allsop observed in Incitec v Alkimos Shipping Corp, ‘the question is one of the exercise of a discretion in all the circumstances, but recognising that the starting point is the fact that the parties have agreed to litigate elsewhere, and should, absent some strong countervailing circumstances, be held to their bargain.’[9] The burden of demonstrating strong reasons rests on the party resisting the stay.[10] Considerations of inconvenience and procedural differences between jurisdictions are unlikely to be sufficient as strong reasons.[11]

HCCH First Secretary Ribeiro-Bidaoui’s response re the debate surrounding the 2005 HCCH Choice of Court Convention

Dr. João Ribeiro-Bidaoui (First Secretary at the Hague Conference on Private International Law) has posted a compelling answer on the Kluwer Arbitration Blog to the debate sparked by Prof. Gary Born’s criticism in a series of posts published on the same Blog (see Part I, Part II, and Part III). First Secretary Ribeiro-Bidaoui’s response is masterfully crafted in drawing the boundaries between equally valuable and essential instruments, and certainly constitutes a most welcome contribution.

For further commentary on these exchanges, see also on the EAPIL Blog, here.

Red-chip enterprises’ overseas listing: Securities regulation and conflict of laws

Written by Jingru Wang, Wuhan University Institute of International Law

1.Background

Three days after its low-key listing in the US on 30 June 2021, Didi Chuxing (hereinafter “Didi”) was investigated by the Cyberspace Administration of China (hereinafter “CAC”) based on the Chinese National Security Law and Measures for Cybersecurity Review.[1] Didi Chuxing as well as 25 Didi-related APPs were then banned for seriously violating laws around collecting and using personal information,[2] leading to the plummet of Didi’s share. On 16 July 2021, the CAC, along with other six government authorities, began an on-site cybersecurity inspection of Didi.[3] The CAC swiftly issued the draft rules of Measures for Cybersecurity Review and opened for public consultation.[4] It proposed that any company with data of more than one million users must seek the Office of Cybersecurity Review’s approval before listing its shares overseas. It also proposed companies must submit IPO materials to the Office of Cybersecurity Review for review ahead of listing.

It is a touchy subject. Didi Chuxing is a Beijing-based vehicle for hire company. Its core business bases on the accumulation of mass data which include personal and traffic information. The accumulated data not only forms Didi’s unique advantage but also is the focus of supervision. The real concern lays in the possible disclosure of relevant operational and financial information at the request of US securities laws and regulations, which may cause data leakage and threaten national security. Therefore, China is much alert to information-based companies trying to list overseas.

News

Just published: Mexican Journal of Private International Law No 45 – Celebrating its 25th Anniversary

The Mexican Academy of Private International and Comparative Law (AMEDIP) has just published the 25th Anniversary Issue of the Mexican Journal of Private International Law.  It is available here.

One of the main aims of this journal is to publish the papers presented at AMEDIP’s annual seminars, which must comply with the requirements set out in the convocations and are peer-reviewed. Click here to access the Journal page.

Below is the table of contents of the 25th Anniversary Issue (in Spanish):

DOCTRINA

– Pros  y  contras  del  Convenio  de  la  Haya  de  1996,  sobre  la competencia, la ley aplicable, el reconocimiento, la ejecución y cooperación en materia de responsabilidad parental y de medidas de protección de los niños / María Virginia Aguilar

New issue alert: RabelsZ 3/2021

The latest issue of RabelsZ is out. It contains the following articles:

Kai-Oliver Knops: Die unionsrechtlichen Voraussetzungen des Rechtsmissbrauchseinwands – am Beispiel des Widerrufs von Verbraucherdarlehens- und Versicherungsverträgen (The Requirements of EU Law on Abuse of Law and Abuse of Rights – the Example of the Right to Withdraw from Credit Agreements and Insurance Contract)Volume 85 (2021) / Issue 3, pp. 505-543 (39), https://doi.org/10.1628/rabelsz-2021-0023

Issue 2021(2) Dutch PIL journal

The second issue of 2021 of Dutch PIL journal, including both English and Dutch language papers, has just been published.

It includes these papers:

K.C. Henckel, Rechtskeuze in het ipr-arbeidsrecht: enkele gedachten over het begunstigingsbeginsel / p. 251-273