Sun, Oct. 12, 2003

Silly German Law with Extraterritorial Effect

CK - Washington.   The German rules requiring detailed information on web publishers have been abused greatly by cease and desist specialists who send demands to alleged violators and charge them a fee for their service. In one case, a court condoned the practice when a web publisher failed to make the information available with two mouse clicks from the main page. Another court defined the screen resolution which controls where a compliant link to the information should reside. Other courts have addressed the issue of "commercial purpose" as a criterion to subject web sites to the requirement, and the trend there appears to deem commercial any third party advertising banners even if the site does not display any other commercial purpose.

A recently released Frankfurt decision of March 28, 2003 applies the rules of § 6 of the Tele Data Statute to a Welsh company whose website is directed at readers in Germany. A competitor of the company argued that even if the Welsh company cannot display required German corporate information to identify the publisher, it would still be required to meet the statutory burdens. The Frankfurt court agreed and ordered the company to display its foreign corporate data. The court took into account that the management of the Welsh company operated in Germany.

With Germany being data protection heaven, the urge to publish easily abused information surprises. The pertinent statutes practically force confidential information into the hands of crackers and identity thieves; and the outrageous cease and desist rules reward blackmailers and snitches, at least when viewed from a foreign perspective.

The example of this compliant statement lists not only email and other contact information but also tax IDs and other business data. Imagine a mistake, and the German equivalent of ambulance chasers will hound the poor net citizen.

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