Sun, Nov. 07, 2004

Relief for Websites

CK - Washington.   The Fachschaft-Jura blog reports of an appeals court ruling from Hamm that appears to reduce the obligations imposed on website operators under German law. The court held no statutory or other rule in German or European Union law requires the publication of a telephone number on a commercial website.

This ruling means relief from the threats of ever popular cease-and-desist orders directed against allegedly non-compliant operators of websites with commercial contexts. See also Kochinke, Abusive Cease and Desist Demands.

A new threat develops, however, in the area of liability for links. Simon's Blawg and KMU-Blog note the case of a cease- and-desist demand directed at a website operator who maintains a link to a search engine, and the search engine displays links to improper material. Such liability, if it existed, would mean a liability for links in the second degree.

Currently, there is a wave of deceptive links set by third parties to referrer lists on blogs that appear to connect quite plainly to search engines. A detailed examination of the link displays, however, a query connected with the link tag that triggers a search result with objectionable content--and no link that could have made a visitor visit the blog from that search result. Accordingly, there is a substantial likelihood that the referrer link has been manipulated--easy to do with a standard tool such as curl. It would seem immensely unreasonable to hold a website operator responsible for a third party's manipulation of a referrer link list. For these reasons, the documentation on second degree link liability is an important contribution to the development of link liability law--in German at the attacked site.

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