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Internet Gambling Hyperlinks illegal?

Up to 1000 webmasters in Germany received a warning about their links to websites offering internet gambling that has not been licensed in Germany. The letters demand the webmasters refrain from further linking to these sites and pay 381, 64 Euro as attorney's fees. The letters have been sent by a German law firm. Their client runs an "internet portal",  which contains ads for gambling sites, that have been licensed in Germany. Commentators of the case point out that the warnings themselves might be illegal under the German Act Against Unfair Competition (UWG). One lawyer even talked about fraud. As for the legal situation in Germany, any person who advertises illegal gambling is subject to criminal charges under Section 284 IV of the German Criminal Code (StGB) and can also be in violation of Section 1 UWG. At least two German courts have already dealt with the issue of links to gambling sites. One held that a simple reference to an illegal gambling site is only prohibited by Section 284 IV StGB, if its evident object is to promote it . A mere link does not suffice for it. Another court reached the conclusion that a company that links to the website of an affiliated company can be held liable, because the link contributes to the success of the games offered at the linked-to-site. So to conclude, the question if and under which circumstances links to online gambling not licensed in Germany are illegal, has not finally been decided by the courts. 

Similar problems arise e.g. in the USA. In 2000 a Houston-based Internet company whose sites contained several links to electronic gambling has been investigated for allegedly illegally promoting gambling. In 2002 a proposed bill to ban Internet gambling would have required Internet Service Providers to remove hyperlinks to Websites that offer gambling. The bill did not pass in the Senate (For more Information on the bill click here).



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