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

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 Update 4: February 23, 2003


1. Can Links illegally promote gambling?

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).

2. SBC Communications v. Frames Patent?

Last year British Telecom (BT) lost its legal challenge against Prodigy to charge US ISPs a fee for using hyperlinks. A court ruled that ISPs do not infringe a patent filed by BT more than 25 years ago. BT had asserted that the U.S. patent 4,873,662 covers hyperlinks (Also see a compilation of articles for further information on the case).

Now SBC Communications claims that it owns the right to links that stay visible on the page during navigation. SBC sent an e-mail to the site demanding a licence fee. If the claim would be valid, SBC could demand fees from every company that puts links in frames.

You can read the letter at the website.

3. Newsbooster's newsbrowser

Newsbooster has developed a downloadable programm called "Newsbrowser" that uses peer-to-peer techniques to search for news across the Internet. The programm comes as a reaction to a verdict from last year, that prohibits Newsbooster from deep linking to some news websites.

Information on the Newsbooster lawsuit can be found here!

4. DeCSS-Update

Norwegian prosecutors are appealing the court ruling that acquitted 19-year-old Jon Lech Johansen of charges for creating DeCSS.

New in Legal Resources:  

  • Klein, Michèle / Leistner, Matthias, Urteilsanmerkung zu LG München I vom 20.9.2000, CR 2001, 196
  • Metzger, Axel, Urteilsanmerkung zu LG Hamburg vom 2.1.2001, CR 2001, 265
  • Schütz, Raimund / Attendorn, Thorsten, Urteilsanmerkung zu LG Frankenthal vom 28.11.2000, MMR 2001, 401
  • Börsch, Boris, Sind Hyperlinks rechtmäßig?, Diss., Münster u.a. 2003
  • Ernst / Vassilaki / Wiebe, Hyperlinks, Köln 2002
  • Loren, Lydia Pallas, The Changing Nature of Derivative Works in the Face of New Technologies, 4 J. Small & Emerging Bus. L 57, 67-72 (2000)
  • Stadler, Thomas, Haftung für Informationen im Internet, Berlin 2002, pp 134-208
  • Mahovsky, Alexander, Haftung für Hyperlinks aus marken- und wettbewerbsrechtlicher Sicht, Masterthesis 2002, internet 4 jurists
  • Stomper, Bettina, Urheberrechtliche Aspekte von Links, ÖBl 2002, 212
  • Schmidbauer, Franz, Was der Hyperlink nicht mit dem Urheberrecht zu tun hat - Eine Antithese zu Bettina Stomper: Urheberrechtliche Aspekte von Links, I4J

Publications in Spanish

New in Technical Background:

A list of websites, that provide Perl Scripts (with or without charge) to stop linking can be found here and here, and PHP-Scripts here.

New in Decisions:

  • OLG Hamburg,  Decision of June 5, 2002 - 5 U 74/01, CR 2003, 56 

Competition Law, Criminal Law

Wer einen Link zur Website seiner Tochtergesellschaft setzt, haftet als Mitstörer gem. § 1 UWG i.V.m. § 1004 BGB für die dort angebotenen nicht genehmigten Glücksspiele (§§ 284, 287 StGB). Mit dem Link wird der Absatz der Wetten gefördert und ein entscheidender Beitrag für die Nutzung und den Erfolg des Glücksspiels erbracht.

Es besteht keine Haftungserleichterung für Hyperlinks nach dem TDG. Für Hyperlinks besteht in entsprechender Anwendung von § 8 I TDG - wie bei dem Bereithalten von eigenen Informationen - eine Verantwortlichkeit nach den den allgemeinen Gesetzen.

New Section: Laws & Regulations



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!

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