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Decision of the Local Court of Hamburg of May 12, 1998 (312 O 85/98)
For the first time, a German court has ruled that the provision of Internet links may make the owner of a web site liable for statements contained in the linked third party web site.

Facts
The Defendant is the owner of an Internet web site which offered a collection of links to third party web sites containing statements about the Plaintiff, a controversial attorney and TV presenter in Germany. On his web site, the Defendant included a disclaimer according to which responsibility for linked third party statements would only lie with each respective author. As some of the linked third party web sites contained defamatory statements about the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff applied to the Local Court of Hamburg for an injunction to prohibit the Defendant's links to such third party web sites and to award the payment of damages against the Defendant. The Plaintiff argued that the provision of links to defamatory third party sites constituted a defamatory act by the Defendant under German law. The Defendant (who apparently was aware of the defamatory statements) was of the view that his links only opened a "market of opinions" for which he was not responsible.

Held
The Local Court of Hamburg found in favour of the Plaintiff. The Court was of the opinion that the presentation of the Internet links represented an endorsement of the defamatory third party web sites. It did not agree with the contention of the Defendant that the Internet links would only open a "market of opinions". Instead, the Court relied on German case law established with respect to the print media business. According to such case law, the distribution of defamatory statements of third parties constitutes a defamatory act by itself if the distributor does not clearly dissociate himself from such statements. The Court found that such precedents are also applicable to Internet links. As the Defendant's disclaimer was not, in its view, sufficient to dissociate from the statement of the linked web sites, it granted the injunction requested and ordered the payment of damages (which mainly related to the costs of the proceedings).The information and opinions contained in this document are not intended to be a comprehensive study, nor to provide legal advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice concerning individual situations.

Content
The author reserves the right not to be responsible for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the use of any information provided, including any kind of information which is incomplete or incorrect,will therefore be rejected.
All offers are not-binding and without obligation. Parts of the pages or the complete publication including all offers and information might be extended, changed or partly or completely deleted by the author without separate announcement.
2. Referrals and links
The author is not responsible for any contents linked or referred to from his pages - unless he has full knowledge of illegal contents and would be able to prevent the visitors of his site fromviewing those pages. If any damage occurs by the use of information presented there, only the author of the respective pages might be liable, not the one who has linked to these pages. Furthermore the author is not liable for any postings or messages published by users of discussion boards, guestbooks or mailinglists provided on his page.

Copyright
The author intended not to use any copyrighted material for the publication or, if not possible, to indicatethe copyright of the respective object.
The copyright for any material created by the author is reserved. Any duplication or use of objects such as diagrams, sounds or texts in other electronic or printed publications is not permitted without the author's agreement.

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Legal validity of this disclaimer
This disclaimer is to be regarded as part of the internet publication which you were referred from. If sections or individual terms of this statement are not legal or correct, the content or validity of the other parts remain uninfluenced by this fact.

 
   

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