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Update 29: March 27, 2005

1. Linking can constitute copyright infringement, US court says

Plaintiff Batesville Casket Company, Inc. sells caskets and other funeral products and services. Defendant Funeral Depot operates a website called through which it offers to sell caskets, including Batesville® caskets. Funeral Depot is not an authorized dealer of Batesville® caskets. If a customer orders a Batesville® casket from Funeral Depot, Funeral Depot arranges to buy the desired casket from an authorized dealer and arranges for shipment from that dealer to the local funeral home chosen by the customer.

Displaying at least some photographs of Batesville® caskets on its website, resulted in a cease-and-desist letter sent to Funeral Depot. Defendant removed the pictures and came up with a great idea: The website was modified so that small, "thumbnail" images of Batesville® caskets were linked to the appropriate casket pages on the Veterans Society website. Veterans Society is an authorized dealer of Batesville® caskets, who had a website, but at that time did not display images of caskets. Funeral Depot designed the Veteran's Society webpages. It paid for those web pages. And it controled those web pages and changes to them. The casket web pages displayed Funeral Depot's phone number rather than Veterans Society's number. Funeral Depot's control over the casket web pages was so complete that the owner of the Veterans Society was not aware of any changes to the casket portion of the website. Batesville Casket alleged copyright infringement and sued Funeral Depot before the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana.

The court held that Veterans Society was authorized to use the photographs, but that the facts presented were unusual enough to take this case out of the general principle that linking does not amount to copying (see Ticketmaster v. The court held that linking to another website could indeed constitute copyright infringement where the defendant has "extensive involvement" in the content of the linked-to site.


  • Batesville Serv. Inc. v. Funeral Depot Inc., Decision of November 10, 2004, United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

    Copyright Law

    inking to another website can constitute copyright infringement where the defendant has "extensive involvement" in the content of the linked-to site.


2. Google too powerful? The Greens think so!

The parliamentary group of the Greens in the Bundestag, the lower chamber of Germany's federal parliament published a booklet called "Suchmaschinen: Das Tor zum Netz" ("Search Engines: The Gate to the Net"). The Greens want to remind the search engine operators of the "great responsibility" they bear and demand that they clearly disclose sponsored results.

In the opinion of the Greens it is also very important to strengthen alternatives to the current market leader Google.

  • March 21, 2005: Greens warn against sides effects of search engines, Heise:
    "The parliamentary group of the Greens in the Bundestag, the lower chamber of Germany's federal parliament, is especially worried about the "googleising" of society and current trends in the area of search engines".
  • March 20, 2005: Grüne warnen vor Nebenwirkungen von Suchmaschinen, Heise:
    Die Fraktion der Grünen im Bundestag zeigt sich besorgt über die "Googlesierung" der Gesellschaft und aktuelle Tendenzen im Suchmaschinenmarkt."


3. The future of aggregated news sites: AFP v. Google

The future of aggregated news sites supplied by internet companies such as Google was called into question: The French news agency AFP (Agence France-Presse)  is suing Google Inc. before the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for pulling together photos and story excerpts from thousands of news Web sites. AFP said the "Google News" service infringes on AFP's copyrights by reproducing information from the Web sites of subscribers of the Paris-based news wholesaler and is seeking $17.5m in damages and wants an injunction issued against Google to stop showing its news items in the first paragraph of its news feeds.

AFP alleged that Google has ignored requests to cease and desist from infringing its copyright work. AFP's own Web site includes a "robots.txt" file that spurns search engines, telling them to avoid indexing its news pages. But things are quite more complicated than that, because the stories Google used came not directly from AFP but from its subscribers, some of which might want the rest of their sites indexed to generate ad-boosting referrals.

Google says it has begun removing AFP's stories from its news aggregation site.

AFP's lawsuit (pdf)


4. Updates on older stories:

4.1. Update on the "Link to a political candidate a contribution to his campaign?" story:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued proposed rules attempting to eliminate any restrictions on political blogging. The Commission will take a minimalist approach to regulating political campaign activities on the Internet. The proposed regulations specifically exempt any Internet activity by unpaid individuals or volunteers in their own residences, on their own equipment or on publicly available equipment. This ends the discussion, whether a Web page's link to a candidate's site can constitutes a contribution, before it really started.

  •  March 24, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, Bloggers narrowly dodge federal crackdown, CNet:

    "Political bloggers and other online commentators narrowly avoided being slammed with a sweeping set of Internet regulations this week."

  • March 21, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, Internet election rules could be blocked, CNet:
    "The Internet would be immune from campaign finance laws that could restrict freewheeling political discourse, according to a new proposal in Congress."

4.2. Update on the AdWords lawsuits

Google's French subsidiary has lost its appeal against an October 2003 court ruling ordering it not to display advertisements alongside searches related to a French travel agent's trademarks. The court in Versailles, west of Paris, found that Google was guilty of "trademark counterfeiting" and ordered it to pay the damages originally awarded to French travel companies Luteciel and Viaticum.The search engine must now pay €75,000 (US$100,000) in fines and legal costs.

Louis Vuitton  won a similar case against Google in February 2005.

  • March 17, 2005: Google France loses AdWords appeal,
    Google France has lost an appeal against a French court ruling after it allowed advertisers to sponsor certain terms that are protected by registered trade marks, according to reports.”

  • February 4, 2005: Olsen, Stefani, Google loses trademark case in France, CNet:

    "A French court on Friday ruled against Google in a trademark infringement case brought by Louis Vuitton Malletier, in the latest legal setback to the search giant overseas."


Also see the transcript of the bench trial before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division in the case between Geico and Google


New in Legal Resources

  • Linking Plus Modifications to Linked-To Site May Suffice to Trigger Infringement Liability, Electronic Commerce & Law Report 2005, 1053-1054


New in Decisions

  • OLG Hamburg, Decision of February 3, 2005, Az. 5 U 128/04

    Duty to inform, PAngVO

    1. Die Versandkosten für über das Internet angebotene Waren nach § 1 Abs.2 PAngV sind nicht dem Angebot oder der Preiswerbung im Sinne des § 1 Abs.6 PAngV eindeutig zugeordnet, leicht erkennbar, deutlich lesbar und sonst gut wahrnehmbar, wenn sich bei der Produktbezeichnung zwar ein Link "mehr Info" befindet, am Preis selbst jedoch zusätzlich ein Sternchen, das auf der Bildschirmseite selbst nicht aufgelöst wird.

    2. Zusätzlich fehlt es in einem solchen Fall an einer deutlichen Erkennbarkeit, leichten Lesbarkeit oder sonstigen guten Wahrnehmbarkeit, wenn die Versandkosten auf der mit "mehr Info" verlinkten Seite erst nach drei Bildschirmseiten mit technischen Erläuterungen angegeben werden und überdies dreimal durch die Aufforderung "Jetzt bestellen" unterbrochen sind.


  • OLG Hamm, Decision of December 2004, Az 4 U 115/04 (Verzichtsurteil ohne Gründe)

    Competition Law

    Zwar ist es unerfreulich, wenn Hunderte von Namen und Begriffen im Body einer Webseite verwendet werden, die nicht in einem Zusammenhang mit der sichtbaren Seite stehen, die Schwelle zur Wettbewerbswidrigkeit ist damit aber noch nicht überschritten.


  • LG Essen, Decision of May 26, 2004 (Az. 44 0 166/03), MMR 2004, 692

    Competition Law

    Ein Mitbewerber verschafft sich einen nach § 1 UWG als unlauter zu bewertenden Wettbewerbsvorteil, wenn er durch das konkurrierende Auflisten vieler hundert Meta-Tags ohne jeden inhaltlichen Zusammenhang zu seiner sichtbaren Internet-Seite erreichen will, dass seine Seite bei Verwendung gängiger Suchmaschinen an einer der vorderen Stellen benannt und von Nachfragern frequentiert wird.


  • LG Berlin, Decision of February 22, 2005, Az: 27 O 45/05

    Persönlichkeitsrechtsverletzung durch eine Metasuchmaschine

    1. Suchmaschinen trifft insbesondere dann eine Störerhaftung, wenn ein Hyperlink aufrechterhalten bleibt, obwohl eine zumutbare Prüfung, insbesondere nach einer Abmahnung oder Klageerhebung ergeben hätte, dass mit dem Hyperlink ein rechtswidriges Verhalten unterstützt wird.

    2. In Sachen Störerhaftung besteht kein Unterschied zwischen einer Suchmaschine und einer Metasuchmaschine. Dass letztere keine eigenen Crawler einsetzt, vermag eine unterschiedliche rechtliche Betrachtung nicht zu rechtfertigen. Auch Metasuchmaschinen verwenden Software, die die Ergebnisse anderer Suchmaschinen abfragt und, aufgrund dessen die jeweiligen Ergebnisse angezeigt werden. Es ist nicht dargetan, dass es einen unzumutbaren Aufwand darstellen würde, die URL-Adressen der angegriffenen Einträge zu blocken und damit deren künftige Anzeige zu verhindern.

    3. Der Betreiber einer Meta-Suchmaschine haftet auch dann als Mitstörer für die Darstellung eines Eintrags einer abgefragten Suchmaschine, wenn er das Abfrage-Ergebnis nach Abmahnung nicht selbst reproduzieren kann.



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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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