Links & Law - Information about legal aspects of search engines, linking and framing

Hyperlink & Search Engine Law News  Decisions & Court Documents Worldwide Legal Resources (Hyperlink & Search Engine Law Articles) Linking Law Cases Search Engine Law Publications by Dr. Stephan Ott Technical    Background

Links to Illegal Material / Liability for Hyperlinks


International Reserve Inc. v. Tanners - Heise: Slysoft Link - The Realworld - Bernstein v. J.C Penney - Nottinghamshire County Council v. Journalists - IFPI Schweden v. Tommy Olssen - Direct links into Peer-2-Peer networks - / - Sir Elton John v. Countess Joulebine - - Google v. Scientology - Deutsche Bahn v. AltaVista, Google, Yahoo - Deutsche Bahn v. XS4ALL - Deutsche Bahn v. - Lucasfilm v. / NaboOnline - Cyber Patrol - MP3Board v. RIAA - Scientology v. Spaink - Microsoft v. Slashdot - IFPI v. Fast Search / Lycos - Suhrkamp v. Kantel - UCSD v. Student Group - Google v. Illegal Content - Google and Kazaa Lite Links - Recommendations on the responsibilities for linking to illicit content - IFPI China MyWeb - CDU and the Ketchup Song



Intellectual Reserve Inc. v. Tanners

A temporary restraining order stopped the Tanners from displaying parts of the Church Handbook of Instructions on their website. Soon after the ruling they posted e-mails on their Website that tell visitors where to find copies of the book online. They didn’t link to these sites, but merely provided the URL. International Reserve Inc., the corporation that holds the copyrights in the book, successfully asked a court to expand the restraining order. In view of the court the URL posting amounted to contributory copyright infringement. The case was finally settled.


Also see the Decision Section: December 6, 1999



Heise Slysoft Link

Creating a link to another website which offers illegal software for download, can lead to prosecution for complicity. A Munich court ruled that the online news service Heise may publish an article explaining anti-circumvention technology, but it may not include a link in that article to a Web site where users may download the software. Although no direct link was provided to download the software, the music record industry took Heise to court with allegations of complicity for copyright infringement and won. The court did not agree with Heise's argumentation that their articles and the hyperlink were protected by laws for the freedom of the press. According to the court Heise intentionally provided "assistance in the fulfillment of unlawful acts" and is therefore liable as "an aider and abettor". The court also did not find it relevant that readers were also able to find the product via a search engine. Rather, it ruled that providing a link made finding the software "much easier".

  • May 4, 2005: Heise-Urteil zur Linkhaftung im Volltext, Links & Law
  • April 11, 2004: Libbenga, Jan, Heise ordered to remove link to, The Register:
    "A Munich court has ruled that German news site Heise Online was wrong to publish a link to, a company that advertises software that can play, copy and rip protected audio CDs."
  • Heidrich, Jörg, Verlinken verboten, c't:
    "Dürfen Presseorgane auch nach der Reform des Urheberrechts weiter über eine Software berichten, die den Kopierschutz von CDs und DVDs überwindet?"
  • April 5, 2005, Urteil in Sachen Musikindustrie gegen heise online, Heise:
    "In dem Rechtsstreit (Az. 21 O 3220/05) von acht Unternehmen der Musikindustrie gegen den Heise Zeitschriften Verlag liegt seit heute das schriftliche Urteil des Landgerichts München I vor."
  • March 7, 2005: Münchner Landgericht verbietet Link auf Kopiersoftware-Hersteller, Heise:
    "Einen wichtigen Teilerfolg verbuchte der Heise Zeitschriften Verlag in dem Verfahren von acht großen Unternehmen der Musikindustrie gegen den Verlag vor dem Landgericht München I."
  • January 28, 2005, Abmahnung wegen Link,
    "IFPI Deutschland, der deutsche Ableger des internationalen Dachverbands der Musikindustrie, hat den Heise-Verlag abgemahnt."

Text of the decision

Update August 2005:

A Munich court of appeal upheld a lower court ruling,  that ordered German website to remove a hyperlink to SlySoft's website. SlySoft is the maker of ANYDVD, a software product that allows cracking the copyright protection found on most DVD-Video discs, and CloneCD, a tool that allows backing up copy protected audio CDs.

According to the ruling, Heise  is free to report on software that can crack copy-protection mechanisms on DVDs, but has to refrain from linking to the software vendor's homepage. Freedom of the press does not protect Heise's right to link to the goods.


Update September 2005: German Heise Publishing House will file a constitutional complaint against a decision by the Higher Regional Court in Munich (first-instance District Court decision can be found here). The court had ruled that creating a link to another Web site which offers illegal software for download, can lead to prosecution for complicity. The online news service Heise may publish an article explaining anti-circumvention technology, but it may not include a link in that article to a Web site where users may download the software. The court did not agree with Heise's argumentation that their article and the hyperlink were protected by laws for the freedom of the press.

There have been a lot of lawsuits dealing with hyperlinks to illegal content worldwide, especially to Mp3-music files, but it will be the first time that a national Constitutional Court will rule on a "right to link".


The Realworld

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has forced German download Web portal "The Realworld" to shut down after intense legal pressure. The site did not host any copyrighted files, but provided ed2k links that can be used to find content on the eD2K network. “TRW is under legal attack and forced offline for the time being,” says the site, that specialized in TV episodes. The operator is now appealing for donations for “legal defence”.


Bernstein v. J.C Penney

Department store J.C. Penney and cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden were sued by Photographer Gary Bernstein because of an unauthorized reproduction of one of his photographs. The picture was three clicks away from the website of the defendants. In the opinion of Los Angeles Judge Manuel Real the links did not violate Bernstein’s copyright.

  • November 1998: CA Judge Dismisses Copyright Claims Based On Linking, Software Law Bulletin:
    "Without comment, a California federal judge has dismissed, with prejudice, copyright infringement allegations against defendants who maintained links that eventually led to a Swedish web site where allegedly infringing photographs were displayed."
  • September 25, 1998: Kaplan, Carl, Can A Web Link Break Copyright Laws?, New York Times:
    "Suppose a Web site links to a site that links to another site containing illegally reproduced photographs. Can the first site be sued for illegal linking?"
  • September 22, 1998: Borland, John, Court Dismisses Web Copyright Case, TechWeb:
    "A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a copyright lawsuit that threatened to hold websites legally responsible for links to content posted elsewhere on the Web."
  • Samson, Martin, Short Summary


Nottinghamshire County Council v. Journalists

In 1997 three British journalists posted the so called JET-Report on their website, which deals with a flawed government investigation into a case of alleged satanic ritual abuse. The journalists removed the report after Britain's high court issued an injunction, ordering them to take the report off their site.

To stop this government censorship, people around the globe put the report on their websites and thus created several mirror sites. The journalists linked to these websites. The Nottinghamshire County Council tried to stop the dissemination and to keep the content of the report a secret. They send threatening letters to several people, but finally dropped all legal action.

News Articles

  • August 18, 1997: Wieder ein Veröffentlichungsverbot am Internet gescheitert, Juristisches Internetprojekt Saarbrücken:
    "Trotz Obsiegens im einstweiligen Verfahren - am 30.6. hatte der Londoner High Court britischen Journalisten die ungenehmigte Veröffentlichung von JET-Report-Auszügen im Internet bei Haftandrohung verboten - gab das Nottinghamshire County Council jetzt bekannt, dass es auf die Fortsetzung des Verfahrens in der Hauptsache verzichten werde."
  • August 4, 1997: Craddock, Ashley, Nottingham v. Net: Game, Set, Match to Net, Wired:
    "Thwarted by the Net, the Nottinghamshire County Council has dropped its two-month-old attempt to quash the online publication of a report critical of a flawed government investigation into the United Kingdom's first case of alleged satanic ritual abuse."
  • August 4, 1997: Kornblum, Janet, British relent on banned report, CNet:
    "Score a victory for the Internet: A local government in England, which had been fighting to stop the distribution of a banned government report on the Net, has withdrawn from the fight, leaving the other side to claim victory.
  • August 4, 1997: Recent Press Releases issued by Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) about the availability of the JET Report on the Internet and its up-to-date coverage including mirror sites and the problems with the hyperlinks
  • June 13, 1997: Kornblum, Janet, Britain pursues banned report, CNet:
    "British authorities trying to regain control of a report let loose online last week are telling an American professor to take the report--along with any links to it--off the Net.
  • June 10, 1997: Kornblum, Janet, Governments strive to keep lid on the Net, CNet
  • June 3, 1997: Kornblum, Janet, U.K. child abuse witch-hunt exposed, CNet:
    "David Hebditch and two other British journalists knew they were breaking the law when they posted a banned government report detailing a notorious ritual child abuse case on their Web site.
  • June 3, 1997: Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Press Release: UK Nottingham County Council in bid to stop Internet publication of controversial child abuse report



Also see the Decision Section: June 3, 1997


IFPI Schweden v. Tommy Olssen

Criminal charges were filed against Tommy Olssen, because he had provided links to more than 300 copyrighted songs. Sweden’s Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit.

Also see the Decision Section: June 15, 2000


Direct links into Peer-2-Peer networks

Fake files in Peer-2-Peer networks begin to spoil the fun of illegal downloads. In reaction to this development, direct links into Peer-2-Peer networks are becoming more and more popular. Several websites confirm the authenticity of files and provide directlinks, e.g. Sharereactor, Filenexus or Bitzi. Direct links into the Gnutella network are called "Magnet Uniform Ressource" (Magnet URI), into Kazaa sig2dat. 

The sig2dat program e.g. creates startfiles and gives a file a unique signature hash that no other file has. Thus a file hash serves as the identifier of a file content and can be compared to a fingerprint. A user can report the hash information to other users, thus enabling them to create startfiles. The program also enables a user to create quicklinks. A quicklink works and looks like any regular website link, but instead of taking a user to a website it creates a startfile in the shared folder. When a user opens Grokster or KaZaa, the startfile automatically shows up in the traffic section and the download of the file starts. (For more information on the technical background see the FastTrackMovies FAQ)

IFPI Germany send letters to several webmasters demanding they remove directlinks to music files in P2P networks within 24 hours. Several webmaster complied. /

Also see the Decisions Section: December 19, 2000


Sir Elton John v. Countess Joulebine

Defendant, who operates a website specialized in gossip, linked to a highly confidental stolen document relating to a court case between Sir Elton John and his accountants., a website that redirected people to a variety of other pirated software suppliers around the world, has been closed down.

  • October 18, 2001: versenkt, Heise:
    "Die österreichische Schatzinsel für Softwarepiraten,, wurde von der Business Software Alliance dichtgemacht."
  • October 18, 2001: Blincoe, Robert, BSA stomps, The Register:
    "The Business Software Alliance shut down 118 UK warez (pirate software) sites between January and September 2001."



Google v. Scientology

The Church of Scientology demanded that Google remove links to anti-Scientology websites from the Google search engine, which violate their copyright. Google removed certain specific URLs in response to the notification.  

  • April 22, 2002: Gallagher, David, Google Runs Into Copyright Dispute, New York Times:
    "Google Web search engine finds creative response to complaint from Church of Scientology that search results for 'Scientology' included links to copyrighted church material on foreign Web site critical of church and beyond reach of United States copyright law."
  • April 10, 2002: Scientology Complaint to Google, Chilling Effects
  • March 26, 2002: Hiler, John, Church v. Google, round 3, Microcontent News:
    "Last week, Google removed Scientology critic from its search engine database, after Scientologists lawyers filed a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint to Google."
  • March 22, 2002: Hiler, John, Church v. Google, round 2, Microcontent News:
    "Since the spate of mass media coverage yesterday, is once again the #4 result when you search for the word "Scientology"."
  • March 22, 2002: Google Restores Church Links, Wired:
    "Google restored a website critical of the Church of Scientology on its search engine Thursday while free-speech advocates slammed the company for removing the site in the first place."
  • March 22, 2002: Google hat Scientology-Kritiker wieder im Index, Heise:
    "Nachdem Google auf Druck der Scientology-Organisation Anfang der Woche einige Scientology-kritische Seiten aus seinem Index entfernt hatte, hat der Suchmaschinen-Betreiber zumindest die wichtigste der betroffenen Seiten, die Homepage der Operation Clambake, mittlerweile wieder in seinen Index aufgenommen."
  • March 21, 2002: McCullagh, Declan, Google Yanks Anti-Church Sites, Wired:
    "The Church of Scientology has managed to yank references to anti-Scientology websites from the Google search engine."
  • March 21, 2002: Google zensiert Scientology-Kritiker, Heise:
    "Google hat eine Reihe von Seiten der Scientology-kritischen Sites "Operation Clambake" und ihrer Mirror-Server aus seinem Index gelöscht."
  • March 21, 2002: Hiler, John, Church v. Google, Microcontent News:
    "Microcontent News has learned that the Church of Scientology™ is aggressively using digital copyright laws to eliminate one of its chief online critics from the Google database."


Google, Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Quote from e-mail 20.03.2002


Deutsche Bahn v. AltaVista, Google, Yahoo

Deutsche Bahn sent letters to AltaVista, Yahoo and Google asking them to remove hyperlinks to the online copies of two articles from the German-language left-wing extremist publication, Radikal, which has been outlawed in Germany. The articles published under the headline "A handbook for destruction of railroad transport of all kinds" detail how to cut power on parts of the railway system. All three search engines complied with the request, thus avoiding a lawsuit.

  • April 22, 2002: Schulzki-Haddouti, Christiane, Deutsche Bahn setzt sich bei Suchmaschinen-Betreiber durch, Telepolis:
    "Die Deutsche Bahn hat die deutschen Tochtergesellschaften der Suchmaschinen Google, Altavista und Yahoo abgemahnt - mit Erfolg."

  • April 22, 2002: Suchmaschinen entfernen “radikale” Links, Heise:
    "Die deutschen Tochtergesellschaften der Suchmaschinen Google, Altavista und Yahoo folgen der Abmahnung der Deutschen Bahn, Links auf die Site der linksradikalen Zeitschrift Radikal aus dem Angebot zu nehmen."

  • April 18, 2002: Evers, Joris, AltaVista, Google Remove Controversial Links, PC World:
    "Search engines avoid legal action, agree to delete links to site offering info on sabotaging railway systems."
  • April 17, 2002: Naraine, Ryan, Google May Remove Controversial Links, Enterprise News:
    "Search engine firm Google said late Thursday it was negotiating a resolution of a lawsuit filed by Germany's national railway operator Deutsche Bahn AG over search results that link to allegedly illegal Web articles."
  • April 17, 2002: Deutsche Bahn will Google verklagen,
    "Die Deutsche Bahn will den Suchmaschinen-Anbieter Google verklagen, da dieser eine Sabotage-Anleitung für Bahnstrecken verlinkt."
  • April 17, 2002: Suchmaschinen sollen “Radikal”-Links aus dem Netz nehmen, Heise:
    "Die Deutsche Bahn AG hat nun auch die Suchmaschinen Google, Yahoo und Altavista abgemahnt."
  • April 16, 2002: Schulzki-Haddouti , Christiane / Virtel, Martin, Deutsche Bahn: Teilerfolg bei Klage gegen Google, Yahoo und Altavista, Financial Times:
    "Die Deutsche Bahn hat bei ihrem Kampf gegen Sabotage-Tipps im Internet einen Teilerfolg erzielt."
  • April 16, 2002: Evers, Joris, Deutsche Bahn to sue Google; Yahoo, AltaVista next up, Network World Fusion:
    "Deutsche Bahn AG, the German national railway operator, Wednesday will file suit against Google because the company's search engine provides links to a Web site that offers instructions on how to sabotage railway systems, Deutsche Bahn said Tuesday."


Deutsche Bahn v. XS4ALL


Deutsche Bahn v.

Indymedia website contained links to mirror sites of Radikal which have popped up all over the Web. Deutsche Bahn demanded the removal of the links on April 23, 2002. refused and Deutsche Bahn sued. A dutch judge ordered Indymedia NL to remove links pointing to the mirrors of Radikal sites from a page on their website. What makes the decision especially noteworthy is the fact, that all links were surface links. None of the links was pointing to the offending articles directly!

  Also see the Decision Section: June 20, 2002


Lucasfilm v. / NaboOnline

After a request from Lucasfilm Ltd. at least two fan sites stopped linking stolen storyboard images from the film "Star Wars: Episode II."

  • October 2, 2000: Sieberg, Daniel, Lucasfilm orders links to new „Star Wars“ images removed, CNN:
    "Striking back in an effort to stop copyright infringement, Lucasfilm Ltd. has ordered at least two fan sites to stop linking to fiercely guarded storyboard images from the upcoming film "Star Wars: Episode II."


Cyber Patrol

The hack of Cyber Patrol, a blocking software offered by Mattel, was done by two persons with a program they called “cphack.” Cphack was designed to reveal the list of blocked sites that Mattel didn’t want to disclose to the public. Matell first sued the hackers from distributing Cphack over their website. After getting an injunction, Mattel went after mirror sites that posted Cphack and anyone who downloaded it or linked to it.

  • November 16, 2000: Guernsey, Lisa: Lifting the Curtain on Web Filter Strategies, New York Times
  • April 14, 2000: Gunn, Angela, No-Tell Mattel, LA Weekly
  • March 29, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Mattel Ruling Confuses Hackers, Wired:
    "A federal judge's vague ruling in a case over a program that reveals Cyberpatrol's secret blacklist has left the Net's hacking community thoroughly confused."
  • March 28, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Mattel Can Go After Mirrors, Wired:
    "A federal judge in Boston has invited Mattel to start contempt of court proceedings to shut down mirror sites in a suit over its Cyberpatrol filtering software."
  • March 28, 2000: Rötzer, Florian, Überraschende Wende, Telepolis:
    "Cyberpatrol-Hacker stimmen einer Einigung mit Mattel zu und übertragen das Copyright an ihrem Programm zur Umgehung der Verschlüsselung an das Unternehmen."
  • March 27, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Mattel Stays on the Offensive, Wired:
    "Upping the stakes in a battle over a utility that reveals Cyberpatrol's list of off-limits websites, Mattel threatened mirror sites with contempt charges during a court hearing Monday afternoon."
  • March 21, 2000: Stenger, Richard: Cyber Patrol decoding brawl gets ugly and international, CNN:
    "A legal dispute between a U.S. toymaker that produces a popular Internet pornography filter and two programmers that decoded the software could heat up into a messy international brawl."
  • March 19, 2000: Rötzer, Florian, Cyberpatrol-Hack: Einstweilige Verfügung eines amerikanischen Richters, Telepolis:
    "Das Verbot, das Umgehungsprogramm zu verbreiten, betrifft alle Mirror-Websites; der schwedische Provider von einem der Beklagten hat die Seite mit dem Programm bereits vom Netz genommen."
  • March 17, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, CyberPatrol Hackers Lose Round, Wired:
    "U.S. District Judge Edward Harrington granted Mattel -- the toy giant that also sells CyberPatrol -- its request on Friday for an injunction against two programmers who created the "cphack" utility."
  • March 16, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Mattel Sues Over Blocking Hack, Wired:
    "Toy-maker Mattel has sued two programmers who revealed how to circumvent its CyberPatrol blocking software."
  • Permanent Injunction

  • Cyber Patrol break FAQ  

  • CyberPatrol lawsuit archive


MP3Board v. RIAA

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent several cease-and-desist lettes to, a search engine that provides hyperlinks to MP3 music files available for download over the Internet, alleging that the links would infringe their copyright. MP3Board filed a preemptive lawsuit on June 2, 2000 in federal district court in San Jose to get a decision on whether providing hyperlinks constitutes copyright infringement or not. MP3Board also asked for redress for the RIAA's role in temporarily shutting down the MP3Board Website. A short time later, the RIAA also filed suit in federal district court in New York.

News Articles:

  • March 20, 2001: MP3-Suchmaschine verlangt Schadensersatz von Plattenindustrie, Heise:
    "Die MP3-Suchmaschine MP3Board hat mit einer Schadenersatzklage gegen die Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) eine weitere juristische Hürde übersprungen."
  • October 17, 2000: Borland, John MP3Board case moves to New York,
    "While file-trading paragon Napster waits in court and rival Scour seeks bankruptcy protection, another potentially landmark online music case is moving toward resolution."
  • July 26, 2000: King, Brad: MP3Board Offers to Sever Links, Wired:
    "Music portal MP3Board is trying to appease the RIAA with technology that enables copyright owners to destroy links on its site to music files thought to be pirated."
  • July 18, 2000: Borland, John, MP3Board countersues RIAA, calls MP3 links legal,
    "MP3Board today filed its own claim against the Recording Industry Association of America, asking for redress for the RIAA's role in "temporarily shutting down the MP3Board Web site" because it links to copyrighted songs on other Web sites."
  • June 26, 2000: King, Brad, RIAA: No Hyperlinking Allowed, Wired:
    "On Friday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a suit against content-aggregation site The copyright infringement suit filed in federal district court in New York claims that the website knowingly gathers, indexes, and organizes links to sites where illegal files are offered for download."
  • June 6, 2000: Mariano, Gwendolyn, MP3 firm in music-linking dispute with record industry,
    "A little-known Internet search company has fired a legal shot over the bow of the recording industry to preserve its ability to guide Web surfers to online music files, legal and illegal."
  • June 5, 2000: King, Brad, MP3 Site Sues RIAA Over Linking, Wired:
    "The recording industry got a bit of a shock on Monday when a digital music search site filed a lawsuit asking the judge to stop the Recording Industry Association of America from attempting to shut its website down."

Legal Documents:


Information on the lawsuit on the MP3Board website.


Scientology v. Spaink

According to a Dutch court ruling links to a website that infringes someone’s copyright are also an infringement. The decision stems from a lawsuit Scientology filed against the journalist Karin Spaink, who posted materials written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard on her  Website.  

October 2003 Update:

The Court of Appeal in The Hague, Netherlands, denied the Scientologists’ latest appeal in an online copyright dispute that dates back to 1995. The court also overturned two previous rulings by the Amsterdam District Court of March 1996 and June 1999 that held that if a provider was made aware of illegal publishing of copyrighted materials by their subscribers, or hyperlinks to illegal or copyrighted information, it should take action and remove the website or links. 

Xs4all believes that "a hyperlink is merely a road marker on the Internet, and can never be unlawful." Although not all European courts will consent with that statement and the statement is in contradiction to the law in some European countries, Xs4all won an important copyright case, that significantly narrows the ability of copyright claims against ISPs in the Netherlands based on "illegal" hyperlinks.

  • September 9, 2003: Hines, Matt, Hyperlinks remain legal after Scientology defeat, ZDNet UK:
    "The Church of Scientology has lost a courtroom battle to compel a Dutch writer and her Internet service provider to remove postings from a Web site, in a ruling that keeps hyperlinks to copyrighted material legal."
  • September 8, 2003: Libbenga, Jan, Scientologists loses copyright case, The Register:
    "The Court of Appeal in The Hague last week rejected all of the Church of Scientology's claims its action against the Dutch ISP Xs4all, writer Karin Spaink and ten other internet providers for publishing copyrighted material on the web."
  • September 8, 2003: Veröffentlichung von Scientology-Dokumenten bleibt legal, Heise:
    "Die niederländische Journalistin Karin Spaink hat im jahrlangen juristischen Kampf gegen die Scientology-Organisation erneut einen Sieg errungen."
  • June 9, 1999: Goodin, Dan, Scientologists’ copyright suit shapes Net liability, CNet:
    "Linking to a site that contains material that infringes someone's copyright also is an infringement, a Dutch court ruled today, according to the Church of Scientology, the plaintiff in the case."

Also see: Postings and information about the Dutch protest against Scientology

Also see the Decisions Section: June 9, 1999


Microsoft v. Slashdot

On May 2, 2000, Slashdot posted an article describing Microsoft's extensions to the Kerberos standard. Several Slashdot users posted hyperlinks to Microsoft's Kerberos specifications. Microsoft sent Slashdot a letter claiming copyright violation and loss of trade secrets, and requested to remove posts containing links. Slashdot refused to remove the posts. Microsoft should not suppress free speech in the public Web forum.

  • June 1, 2000: Gunn, Angela, A nudge and a link, Seattle Weekly:
    "A few months back during the cphack fracas, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the judge in that case whether injunctions on that Net-filter workaround extended to third-party sites that linked to the information rather than hosting it on their own servers."
  • May 12, 2000: Kermath, Annie, Microsoft picks fight with Slashdot, The Register:
    "Despite Microsoft's request to Slashdot owner and ISP to remove postings containing technical details of its proprietary extensions to Kerberos, the open source authentication standard, they're still up there." 
  • May 11, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Call it, Wired:
    "Thursday just wasn't a good day for geek-culture destination Slashdot."
  • May 11, 2000: Microsoft Asks Slashdot To Remove Readers’ Posts, Slashdot


IFPI v. Fast Search / Lycos

IFPI sued Norwegian company FAST Search over the use of its MP3 search engine and database. Fast's software offers links to more than half a million MP3-based copyrighted songs. FAST MP3 Search finally resolved the conflict with RIAA and IFPI in June 1999.

  • March 25, 1999: Medosch, Armin, Musikindustrie weiter auf Feldzug gegen MP3, Telepolis:
    "Klage gegen FAST, die Softwarefirma, die das MP3-Suchwerkzeug für Lycos programmiert." 
  • March 24, 1999: Robertson, Chiyo, Lycos may face lawsuit over MP3, ZDNet:
    "The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on Wednesday sued Norwegian company FAST Search & Transfer ASA over the use of its MP3 search engine and database, which it has licensed to portal giant Lycos."
  • March 24, 1999: MP3 Search Engine Under Fire, Wired:
    "The global recording industry opened fire Wednesday on Internet music piracy, launching proceedings against a Norwegian partner of US search engine Lycos."
  • 02.02.1999: RIAA Rains on Lycos' MP3 Party, Wired:
    "Lycos will work with the Recording Industry Association of America to ensure the company's new MP3 search engine does not link to illegal sites, the Associated Press reported Tuesday."

Information on the signing of a contract


Suhrkamp v. Kantel

Kantel’s website contained a link to an illegal copy of Martin Walser’s latest book “Tod eines Kritikers”. The Suhrkamp Verlag send him a  cease-and-desist-letter.

  • June 21, 2002: Walser-Roman: Ärger im Netz,
    "Nachdem «Tod eines Kritikers» im Web aufgetaucht war, hat der Suhrkamp-Verlag Homepage-Betreiber, die die Raubkopie verlinkten, abmahnen lassen."
  • June 20, 2002: Suhrkamp zieht Abmahnung wegen Link auf Walser-Roman zurück, Heise:
    "Der Suhrkamp-Verlag hat seine Abmahnung gegen den Betreiber des Weblogs wegen Veröffentlichung eines Links auf die im Internet kursierende illegale Kopie des neuen Romans von Martin Walser zurückgezogen."
  • June 16, 2002: Suhrkamp mahnt Weblog wegen Walser-Roman ab, Heise:
    "Der Betreiber des Weblogs "Schockwellenreiter" soll 1200 Euro Abmahnkosten dafür zahlen, dass er einen Link auf eine der vielen im Internet kursierenden Online-Versionen des Martin-Walser-Romans "Tod eines Kritikers" gesetzt hat."
  • June 14, 2002: Hammerschmitt, Marcus, La règle du jeu, Telepolis:
    "Künstliche Erregung in Frankfurt: Nachdem man etlichen Journalisten per Email den Volltext von Martin Walsers "Tod eines Kritikers" zukommen ließ, wundert man sich nun über die Verbreitung des Machwerks im Internet."

Letter from Suhrkamp


UCSD v. Student Group

The University of California at San Diego ordered a student organization called the Chè Cafè Collective to delete hyperlinks to the official site of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an alleged terrorist organization. After receiving several letters, the University agreed with the signers of the letters that links are a First Amendment right.

  • October 9, 2002: UCSD retreats on links to terrorist group, but hosting not OK, Politech:
    "The University of California at San Diego has abandoned plans to discipline a student group for linking to an alleged terrorist Web
  • October 8, 2002: McCullagh, Declan, University backs down on link ban, CNet:
    "On Tuesday, the American Association of University Professors and nine other groups wrote a letter asking UCSD to abandon its threats of disciplinary action against the Che Cafe Collective, a move that the school had claimed was necessary because of the USA Patriot Act. The cafe had linked to a site supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. government has designated as a terrorist group." 
  • September 28, 2002: Asaravala, Amit, College Questioning Site's Link, Wired:
    "Officials at the University of California at San Diego are reconsidering a recent decision that would have forced a student activist group to remove from its website a link to a guerilla group accused of being a terrorist organization." 
  • September 26, 2002: McCullagh, Declan, University bans "illegal" links, ZDNet:
    "The University of California at San Diego has ordered a student organization to delete hyperlinks to an alleged terrorist Web site, citing the recently enacted USA Patriot Act."


Google v. Illegal Content

Section 512 of the DMCA protects online service providers e.g. search engines from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in the copyright holder's complaint. You will find many cease and desist letters adressed to Google on the Chilling Effects Website.  

According to a report from Harvards Univerity's Berkman Center, Google also deleted more than 100 controversial sites from its French and German listings. Banned are e.g. anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi websites and a fundamentalist Christian site that is adamantly opposed to abortion. The removed sites still appear after a search on the site.

  • October 25, 2002: Rötzer, Florian, Die Welt ist keineswegs alles, was Google auflistet, Telepolis:
    "Nach einem Bericht des Berkman Center an der Harvard-Universität wurden bei und mehr als 100 Websites bei den Suchresultatenen nicht aufgeführt, die bei aber nicht zensiert werden."
  • October 25, 2002: Schwartz, John, Study Tallies Sites Blocked by Google, New York Times:
    "Study by Ben Edelman and Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, finds that Google, popular Internet search engine, has excluded more than 100 Web sites from French and German versions of its index under pressure from those nations' governments."
  • October 23, 2002: McCullagh, Declan, Google excluding controversial sites, CNet:
    "Absent from Google's French and German listings are Web sites that are anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or related to white supremacy, according to a new report from Harvard University's Berkman Center."

Google and Kazaa Lite Links

The DMCA used against Google by Sherman Networks (aka Kazaa) ordered it to remove references to 15 websites that contain information related to Kazaa Lite, an unauthorized copy of Kazaa with the pop-up ads removed. Google has complied, but has linked to the notice .at the bottom of the violation-related search result page. "In response to a complaint we received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 14 results from this page," the statement said. "If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint for these removed results." Removed sites include,, and

Notices were also filed against Slyck, Zeropaid and several other websites.

Recommendations on the responsibilities for linking to illicit content

France's Internet Rights Forum (Le forum des droits sur l’internet or FDI) has published recommendations on the responsibilities of sites that create hyperlinks to "illicit content".


IFPI China v. MyWeb

MyWeb settled a lawsuit brought against it in China by the IFPI. The IFPI lawsuit had been filed in the People's Court of Beijing in December 1999, claiming MyWeb’s site enabled Internet users to download the sound recordings of IFPI members through hyperlinks and search engines.    

  • Internet settlement in China leads to joint IFPI/My Web copyright campaign, IFPI:
    "China's leading TV portal, MyWeb [AMEX: MWB], together with the IFPI, representing the international recording industry, today launched a joint campaign to uphold copyright laws and fight music piracy on the Internet in China."
  • March 27, 2000: Fridman, Sherman, My Web Settles Copyright Lawsuit, Computeruser:
    "The suit complained that MyWeb had set up Web pages on its China-based Web portal that enabled Internet users to download the sound recordings of IFPI members, in MP3 format through hyperlinks and search engines."


CDU and the Ketchup Song

German opposition party CDU has been sued by Sony/ATV Music Publishing because of its use of the song “Aserejè“ by Spanish group Las Ketchup in its political campaigns. A link on their website leads to a MP3-file which features the song with new German lyrics. The song ridicules the government.


Linking Cases

There have been a lot of lawsuits concerning linking, framing and search engine issues in the last years. In this section you'll find short introductions into the different cases and links to news articles about it. 

An overview over featured cases can be found here!

Latest News - Update 71

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



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