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 18: June 11, 2004

1. Google knows what people want...

Google's spell checking software automatically looks at your query and checks to see if you are using the most common version of a word's spelling. If it calculates that you're likely to generate more relevant search results with an alternative spelling, it will ask "Did you mean: (more common spelling)?". So far so good. But did you ever search for legal movies on Google? No? Well, try Google Germany and search for "legaler filmdownload" (means legal film download). The result is quite surprising. Google knows what users really want: Google comes up with the question: Did you mean "illegaler filmdownload" :-)


2. The German Federal Court of Justice rules on the liability for hyperlinks

Last summer, the German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe issued a verdict holding that an online service which offers links to articles in a protected database is not in violation of copyright and competition law, thus ending the discussion about the legality of deep links in Germany. This week the court published its April 1, 2004 decision ( I ZR 317/01) on links from websites to gambling sites. And once again the court stressed the importance of hyperlinks and came to a very "hyperlink friendly decision". 

Defendant's website contained an article about the success of an operator of gambling sites - a former model - and included a link  to an Austrian gambling site, which lacks a German gambling permit and is considered illegal under German law because it also caters to German customers. 

According to the highest German civil court the link only served informational purposes and was not set to promote the gambling site. The court denied civil liability under unfair competition laws. Most important the court provided long awaited clarity as to the required standard of care for website operators: As long as it is not obvious that the linked-to-site is involved in illegal activities, website operators are protected by the freedom of press and opinion and may not be held liable for providing hyperlinks. Even when the operator is in doubt about of the legality of the linked contend he does not violate the duty of care. 

So as long as as it is not obvious that you are linking to illegal information you will probably not be held liable in Germany. Although the  decision centers around a news article and the freedom of press it is reasonable to think the same standard will be applied by the courts to all website operators. 

Text of the decision

  • June 8, 2004: BGH schränkt Haftung von Presseorganen für Hyperlinks ein, Heise:
    "Ein Presseorgan haftet nicht für Hyperlinks auf rechtswidrige Angebote, die als Ergänzung eines redaktionellen Artikels ohne Wettbewerbsabsicht gesetzt werden -- sofern der Inhalt der verlinkten Seite nicht eindeutig als strafbar zu erkennen ist."

  • June 8, 2004: Deutschland lockert Linkhaftung, futureZone:
    "Der deutsche Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] hat die Anforderungen für Online-Medien zur Prüfung von Links heruntergeschraubt, auf die ihre Websites verweisen."

  • June 9, 2004: Link-Haftung gelockert,
    " berichtete gestern über ein bereits am 1. April verkündetes Urteil, bei dem es um Fragen der Link-Haftung geht."


3. John Kerry gets Google-Bombed!

John Kerry has been Google-Bombed with the word 'waffles'. His candidate's campaign website appears at the top of the result list when the word "waffles" is typed into Google.  This was achieved by Ken Jacobson, a Duquesne University Law School student, with the help of at least 44 other Web sites and blogs. Kerry's campaign is trying to capitalize on the prank by purchasing Google AdWords, sponsored links that come up beside results when people search for "waffles".

If you want to know more about how google bombs are being created, check out the overview over articles dealing with Googlebombing. I have also written an article about it in German. For more information on the Bush Google-Bomb "miserable failure" check out update 12. 

  • May 24, 2004: Ogles, Jacob, Kerry gets Google-Bombed, Wired:
    "With the Democratic presidential nomination clinched, John Kerry was bound to get Google-bombed."




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



Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
Copyright © 2002-2008 Dr. Stephan Ott 

All Rights Reserved.