Tue, Dec. 06, 2005

Chilling Effects

CK - Washington.  While ZDNet gives publicity to a Brennan Center for Justice study on the chilling effects from less than clearly defined standards for fair use, German lawyers find their blood chilled today when reading alerts from colleagues whose bank accounts have been accessed with unexpected Paypal deposits and withdrawals.

A small deposit to new users' bank accounts used to be, and perhaps still is, Paypal's method of account verification. Things get troubling if you are not new user and receive a Paypal verification deposit, to be followed by withdrawals.

The European rule requiring website owners to reveal their identity as well as other very personal data or business information, known colloquially in German as Impressumspflicht, helps criminals to a lot of information that they would otherwise have to obtain through cumbersome and potentially risky means. An impressum, the About or FAQ page identifying the owner of a website, creates a fabulous shortcut for all kinds of criminals, from stalkers to finance whizzes.

Add to that the European practice of revealing banking information on stationary, and you create phishers' heaven.

Forum and Blog Liability

JN - Essen.  Bloggers and other web site operators offering discussion forums may be liable for content posted by visitors pursuant to a new judgment from the Hamburg district court, Landgericht Hamburg, docket no. 324 O 721/05.

As reported by Heise on December 5, 2005, the court confirmed a previously issued preliminary injunction which held that Heise, a well-known German Internet news service, had to stop forum postings by visitors calling for a denial-of-service attack on Universal Boards.

Although Heise removed the infringing postings promptly upon notice, the court held that Heise was liable for the content as it could feasibly screen postings manually or technically for illegal content before its publication.

While the written grounds for the decision have not yet been published, commentors argue that the ruling violates the express standard in §11 of the German teleservices statute, Teledienstgesetz. The statute exempts web site operators from liability when they lack actual knowledge of the infringing content and immediately remove such content upon obtaining knowledge thereof. Others suggest that forums ought to provide the same protections found in chat rooms that automatically filter some content.

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