Fri, Jan. 08, 2016

Link Liability in German Law

MH - Washington.   The German Supreme Court for Civil Matters ruled on the liability for external links in a decision published on January 5, 2016. It had announced its ruling in the matter I ZR 74/14 on June 18, 2015.

The parties had raised the issue whether or not using links on one's business website leads to liability for the allegedly unlawful content of the page linked to. A fairly novel issue is the obligation to examine links to external sites.

A physician had linked from his website to a site covering details about acupuncture treatments. The plaintiff, a consumer protection group, considered the content of that page misleading, which results in the question whether the physician would be liable for the violation of the Unfair Competition Statute, UWG.

The Court ruled that the defendant was not responsible for the unlawful information on the third party's site. Its determination requires a case-by-case analysis. Liability depends on whether the content would be considered one's own statement in the sense of an endorsement by the user of the link, as perceived by the public. Determinative factors are, whether the user only wants to provide a source for further information or the linked content is essential to understanding the user's content.

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