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

 Update 15: March 6, 2004:

My thesis on linking and framing has been published in February. The thesis (written in German) is also available online (532 pages). The website features many new articles about linking and framing and also has a new layout. 


1. First Report on the application of the E-Commerce-Directive

The E-Commerce Directive does not specifically deal with the liability for providers of hyperlinks.  But according to Article 21 of the Directive, the Commission shall submit to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee a report on the application of this Directive before 17 July 2003, and thereafter every two years. In examining the need for an adaptation of this Directive, the report shall in particular analyse the need for proposals concerning the liability of providers of hyperlinks and location tool services, "notice and take down" procedures and the attribution of liability following the taking down of content. 

The first report on the application of the E-Commerce directive adresses the issue of liability for hyperlinks. The report states: 

In addition to the matters dealt with by Articles 12-14, some Member States 68 decided to provide for limitations on the liability of providers of hyperlinks and search engines.69 This was motivated by the wish to create incentives for investment and innovation and enhance the development of e-commerce by providing additional legal clarity for service providers. Whilst it was not considered necessary to cover hyperlinks and search engines in the Directive, the Commission has encouraged Member States to further develop legal security for internet in-termediaries. It is encouraging that recent case-law in the Member States recognizes the importance of linking and search engines to the functioning of the internet. In general, this case-law appears to be in line with the Internal Market objective to ensure the provision of basic intermediary services, which promotes the development of the internet and e-commerce. Consequently, this case-law does not appear to give rise to any Internal Market concerns 70 . 

In a few cases 71 national courts have already interpreted the Directive. However, in these cases, the national implementing measures of the Directive had not yet been adopted in the States concerned.

There is still very little practical experience on the application of Articles 12-14, but the feedback received so far from the Member States and interested parties has, in general, been positive. The approach taken in the Directive appears to have wide reaching support among stakeholders. In any case the Commission will, in accordance with Article 21, continue to monitor and rigorously analyse any new developments, including national legislation, case-law and administrative practices related to intermediary liability and will examine any future need to adapt the present framework in the light of these developments, for instance the need of additional limitations on liability for other activities such as the provision of hyperlinks and search engines.72


68 Spain, Austria and EEA-State Liechtenstein and Portugal in its draft law. 

69 Spain and Portugal have opted for the model of Article 14 both for search engines and hyperlinks, whereas Austria and Liechtenstein have opted for the model of Article 12 for search engines and of Article 14 for hyperlinks. 

70 For example in France TGI Paris, référé, 12 mai 2003, Lorie c/M. G.S. et SA Wanadoo Portails, in Germany in the case Verlagsgruppe Handeslblatt v. Paperboy, aus dem Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), Urteil vom 17. Juli 2003 – I ZR 259/00. 

71 Cases Deutsche Bahn v. XS4ALL, judgement by Gerechtshof te Amsterdam (Court of Appeals), 762/02 SKG, of 7.11.2002, and Deutsche Bahn v. Indymedia, judgement by Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court), KG 02/1073, of 20.6.2002, in the Netherlands (judgements available at; and Case Public Prosecutor v. Tele2 in the EEA-country Norway, judgement by Borgarting Lagmannsrett (Court of Appeals), 02-02539 M/01, of 27.6.2003. Tele2 was acquitted when the public prosecutor dropped charges against it.

72 The approach of the Member States who opted to legislate on the hyperlinks and search engines does not seem to give rise to a risk of fragmentation of the Internal Market. The Commission is, however, actively following work in Member States relating to liability issues such as the fundamental work carried out by "Le Forum des droits sur l'Internet" in France, which has published recommendations on hyperlinks called "Hyperliens: Statut Juridique", published 3.3.2003, and "Quelle responsabilité pour les créateurs d'hyperliens vers des contenus illicites, published 23.10.2003, both available at


The text in German is available here!

Additional Comments: 

Footnote 70 mentiones a verdict in the dispute between Handelsblatt and Paperboy. This case was not about liability for linking to illegal material. The case was about legality of deep linking in Germany.

In the USA, South Africa, Austria and Spain the liability for linking to illegal material is regulated by law.


  • E-Commerce Directive  = Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market ('Directive on electronic commerce')

  • First Report on the application of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce); Brussels, 21.11.2003; COM(2003) 702 final

  • Erster Bericht über die Anwendung der Richtlinie 2000/31/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 8. Juni 2000 über bestimmte rechtliche Aspekte der Dienste der Informationsgesellschaft, insbesondere des elektronischen Geschäftsverkehrs, im Binnenmarkt (Richtlinie über den elektronischen Geschäftsverkehr)


2. Search Engines in the News:

a. February 2004 (Articles in English)

  • February 27, 2004: Google's Page "dismayed" by IPO speculations, ZDNet:
    "No definitive statements have been made about a public offering, according to Google's co-founder."

  • February 20, 2004: Oceana Campaign to Get Ads back on Google, Search Engine Journal:
    "Oceana has launched an online awareness and action campaign to get their anti-Royal Caribbean ads placed back into Google AdWords searches for the cruise line with the controversial sewage treatment system."

  • February 17, 2004: Liedtke, Michael, Google ads a billion more pages, MSNBC News:
    "Online search engine leader Google Inc. added an additional 1 billion pages to its Web index Tuesday, increasing its breadth by about one-third as it girds for tougher competition from Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp."

  • February 5, 2004: Hedger, Jim: Search Engine Wars: MSN + Google = Netscape, Internet Search Engine Database:
    "The search engine war between Google and MSN is generating some nasty tactics reminiscent of the Microsoft vs. Netscape battle of the mid '90's."

  • February 5, 2004: Pearce, James, Google swamps Australian university's server, ZDNet:
    "The astronomy department of Swinbourne University suffered an effective denial-of-service attack after Google spotlighted mathematician Gaston Julia's birthday."

  • February 3, 2004: Google voted best brand, BBC News:
    "Internet search engine Google was the top brand of 2003, a survey of 4,000 branding professionals has concluded."

  • February 3, 2004: Thibodeau, Serge, The latest on update Austin, Internet Search Engine Database:
    "Some of the websites that haven’t been hit too hard in Google’s Florida update (November 2003) got hit real hard on or around January 23. Google’s latest update is called “Austin”, and they are beginning to ‘sound’ like elections…"


b. February 2004 (Articles in German)

  • February 27, 2004: Klage wegen Google-Toolbar,
    "Netjumper, ein kleines Software-Unternehmen aus Michigan, hat ein gerichtliches Verfahren gegen Google eingeleitet. Die Suchmaschine soll ein Software-Patent des Unternehmens verletzt und dadurch Schaden zugefügt haben."

  • February 27, 2004: Google-Gründer auf Forbes-Liste,
    "Voreilig beziehungsweise vorsorglich hat das Forbes-Magazin zwei neue "Milliardäre" in seine Liste der reichsten Leute dieser Erde aufgenommen: Die beiden ehemaligen Stanford-Studenten und Google-Gründer Sergey Brin (31) und Larry Page (31)."

  • February 24, 2004: Google bei US-Bürgern am beliebtesten, Heise:
    "Die Suchmaschine Google wurde im Januar in den USA rund 59 Millionen mal besucht."

  • February 18, 2004: Fiutak, Martin, Google baut Suchindex um ein Drittel aus, ZDNet:
    "Google hat die Register seiner Suchmaschine auf über sechs Milliarden Einträge ausgeweitet."

  • February 18, 2004: Yahoo sucht wieder alleine,
    "Seit Mittwoch sucht Yahoo wieder alleine: Wie das Unternehmen bekannt gab, wird ab sofort die Yahoo-eigene Suchtechnik "Yahoo Search Technology" zum Einsatz kommen. Damit verabschiedet sich das Unternehmen von dem bisherigen Partner Google."

  • February 17, 2004: Google streicht Werbung von Umweltschutzgruppe,
    "Die Betreiber der Suchmaschine Google haben eine Werbeanzeige der Umweltschutzgruppe Oceana von ihren Ergebnislisten verbannt, weil diese sich gegen die Verschmutzung der Meere durch Kreuzfahrtschiffe wendet."

  • February 17, 2004: Google AdWords ärgern jetzt auch Österreicher,
    "Googles Adword-System stößt nun auch in Österreich einem Anbieter sauer auf."

  • February 16, 2004: Krüger, Alfred, Zensur bei Google?, Telepolis:
    "Google lehnt Werbeanzeigen von Umweltschützern ab."

  • February 11, 2004: Google: AdWords jetzt auch auf chinesisch,
    "Der Suchmaschinenbetreiber Google will sein AdWords-Programm ab heute auch in chinesischer Sprache anbieten."

  • February 5, 2004: Janet schlägt 9/11 - Rekordsuchanfrage bei Google,
    "Janet Jackson ist die Nummer eins in den Charts. Allerdings diesmal nicht bei MTV oder VIVA sondern bei Google. Das 'Superbowl-Malheur' der Popsängerin sprengte innerhalb von 24 Stunden alle je dar gewesenen Suchrekorde."

  • February 5, 2004: Von Google überrannt,
    "Etwas zuviel des Guten war der von Google eingerichtete Gedenktag für den französischen Mathematiker Gaston Maurice Julia (geb. 3. Februar 1893), der die Formel für die sogenannten Julia-Fraktale untersuchte."

  • February 4, 2004: Google-Konkurrenz von Microsoft im Beta-Test, Chip Online:
    "Microsoft tritt mit einer Betaversion seines MSN Search gegen die Dienste von Google und Yahoo an."

  • February 4, 2004: Google gegen Booble, MarkenPlatz:
    "Denn wo Name und Design der Booble-Suchmaschine dem von Google verdächtig ähnlich sind, unterscheidet sich das inhaltliche Angebot beträchtlich. Wer boobelt statt zu googeln, erhält ausschließlich Pornografie-Seiten als Treffer."

  • February 2, 2004: Google verschiebt inoffiziellen Börsentermin,
    "Die Spekulationen über einen möglichen Börsengang des Suchmaschinen-Betreibers Google haben einen Dämpfer bekommen. Gegenüber der Zeit und The Times erklärte Eric Schmidt, CEO von Google, dass in der nächsten Zukunft nichts derartiges geplant sei: "Ein IPO (Initial Public Offering) steht derzeit nicht in meinem Terminkalender."

  • February 2, 2004: Google in der Booble Falle,
    "Booble macht gar keinen Hehl daraus, eine "lustige Parodie der größten und bekanntesten Suchmaschine der Welt" sein zu wollen. Doch den sonst als humorvoll bekannten Googlern bleibt das Lachen im Halse stecken, denn Booble ist eine Schmutz-Suchmaschine - und damit will Google nichts zu tun haben."


New in Legal Resources:  

  • Ott Stephan, Urheber- und wettbewerbsrechtliche Probleme von Linking und Framing, Diss. 2004

  • Sebastian Geiseler-Bonse, Internet-Suchmaschinen als rechtliches Problemfeld : Die rechtliche Beurteilung von Meta-tags, Keyword Advertisements und Paid Listings, Diss.

  • Burmeister in Weitnauer (Hrsg.), Beck'sches Formularbuch E-Commerce, Linking-Vertrag, 207-215, 2003

  • Javier Felipe Sanchez Iregui, Linking, framing and meta-tagging, new ways of copyright and trademark infringement, 2001 


New in Technical Background:  

Doorway Pages







The Links & Law website is updated regularily, so  check back for updated information and resources about search engine and linking issues.

You are currently in the archive with older news. A complete list of the updates 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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