Wed, Oct. 26, 2005

Forum Owner Liable for Visitor Action

CK - Washington.   German courts are pushing internet operators ever harder. A June 6, 2005 decision by the Winsen a.d. Luhe court holds the operator of an internet forum responsible for comments by a visitor. The visitor added a fake mug shot that displays a photo of the plaintiff.

Claiming defamation, the plaintiff sent an EMail to the defendant operator, demanding the removal of the mug shot within 24 hours and 17 minutes. When the defendant failed to act, the plaintiff sued. The court granted his motion for an injunction, under §11(2) TDG. Later, the defendant explained his inaction by his personal absence which rendered him unable to react promptly.

The court held that his absence did not excuse his failure. Participants in the Internet must act in Internet time, it noted in the matter of M.K. v. B.R., docket no. 23 C 155/05, reported by JurPC, discussed by Muepe.de, critiqued by Gramespacher and quoted by Handakte.de.

As a result, German forum operators will need to shut down operations when they travel, get stuck in traffic or visit the restroom. After all, the federal Statute on Remote Services, Teledienstgesetz, absolves them from liability only if they act immediately, not merely promptly. That is, according to the statute, upon learning of illegal content. And under the Winsen rule, also when they have no such knowledge.


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