Monetary Penalties for Data Protection Breaches: ICO vs. German DP Authorities

I have just stumbled upon the Information Commissioner’s Office’s  page that informs the British public on the monetary penalties that the ICO has handed down over the last 1 ½ odd years: 26 penalties of about £ 120,000 on average. Not that that kills any of the public authorities and private companies involved (and nor should it). But it shows that where the ICO believes that a breach is serious enough to warrant a monetary penalty the penalties are not only symbolic but designed to at least sting a bit. Continue reading

“Google Has Few Concerns About the Right to be Forgotten!”

Until last year, the right to be forgotten used to be an idea of Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, an Austrian law professor. He suggested – and probably still suggests – providing a “best before date” for data that is electronically saved. After the expiration of the date, the data would be automatically deleted by the application or computer system. Last year, the idea – or a modification thereof – became part of a draft regulation of the European Commission. Continue reading

Forfeiting a Contractual Penalty by Continuously Storing a Photograph

On September 12th, 2012 the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe – 6 U 58/11 – decided on the question, which actions a debtor has to restrain from after he signed a declaration to cease and desist “using a photograph on the internet”. Continue reading

How to Sue and Prove that You Have no Basis for Your Claim, or: The Curious Effects of Patent Exhaustion

My colleague Till Jaeger drew my attention to a recent decision of the German Federal Court of Justice (X ZR 33/10) that demonstrates in a rather curious way the effects of patent exhaustion.

In the case at issue the plaintiff was the holder of a process patent for the coding, transfer and decoding of video signals used when producing and playing of DVDs under the MPEG 2 standard. The defendant, a Greek DVD producer had no business relationship with the plaintiff, in particular no license agreement with the plaintiff was in effect. However, the plaintiff suspected that the defendant made use of its patent and decided to test the defendant’s abidance by the law. Continue reading

Today Parliament Hearing on Interoperability, Standards and Open Source

As we reported in July, the German parliament has recently set up a project group on “Interoperability, Standards, Open Source” as part of its Commission of Enquiry (“Enquete-Kommission”) on “Internet and Digital Society”.

Today, the first expert talks are taking place – and our colleague Till Jaeger has the honor of being invited to comment on legal problems of Free and Open Source Software. More information on the hearing can be found here (unfortunately only in German). Till’s preparatory written statement is available here (again only in German). And if you are interested to follow the discussion live, you can find a live stream here.

Copyright Protection for Websites Using Typo3

Every now and then the question arises in court if websites are protected under copyright law. Website technology is progressing and so time and again new aspects have to be considered by the courts. Recently, the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg ruled on a case of alleged plagiarism of a website that was based on the Open Source Content Management System “Typo 3” (OLG Hamburg, decision of February 29, 2012, ref. 5 U 10/10). Continue reading

Update: Cabinet passed Third Proposal for a New Neighboring Right for Press Publishers

In our blog, we have been keeping track of the new neighboring right for press publishers. After staggering in round one and in round two, the amended proposal now knocked out its critics in round three. Did it really? Continue reading

General Data Protection Regulation: Council of the EU’s Amendments to the Commission’s Draft

Last weekend, an amended draft of the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulation) was published by the British organization statewatch. The proposed changes regard Articles 1-10, 80 (a), 83 and several recitals. While some of them simply clarify the first draft, others – as for example the definition of the term “personal data” in Article 4 Subsection 1 – will have great effects on data protection in Germany. Continue reading

Disclosure Obligations for Access Providers or “What exactly needs to be commercial?”

In order to pursue copyright infringements, rightholders need the names and addresses of the infringers. This creates special problems in file sharing cases where the identity of those who illegally use file sharing systems needs to be found out by checking who’s behind a specific IP address. Detecting copyright infringements and collecting the IP addresses of the responsible persons are just the first steps to this end. But then, the rightholders have no choice but to ask the respective ISP to hand out the data it has about the IP addresses discovered. ISPs for their part need to protect their customers and their business and have to comply with strict statutory data protection provisions. Thus, ISPs and copyright holders are in a permanent conflict of interests. Continue reading

Disguised Advertising in the Wikipedia

Once information is entered into the Internet’s most popular encyclopedia Wikipedia it gains an immense potential of distribution. The high number of users and the easy accessibility in combination with the impression of neutrality an encyclopedia communicates make it highly desirable for companies to be positively depicted in articles about the company itself or its products.

The Higher Regional Court of Munich decided on May 10th, 2012 that positive display of a company’s products in a Wikipedia article that was amended by the director of the company constitutes disguised advertising and thus unfair competition as defined by Section 4 No. 3 UWG (the German Law Against the Unfair Competition). Continue reading

Injunctive relief under competition law

Data protection is big in Europe, especially in Germany. It is not possible to process personal data without a data protection law regulation the data processing. And while data protection laws are primarily supposed to protect the individual’s right to determine how his or her data is being processed, data protection has also become a commercial factor. On the one hand, companies are restricted in their ways of advertisement towards their customers. According to section 28 subsection 3 of the Federal Data Protection Act for example, advertisement is dependent on the individual customer’s consent. On the other hand, data protection compliance demands investments in the implementation of data protection standards within the company, for example to lay down the technical and organizational measures demanded by section 9 of the Federal Data Protection Act. Continue reading

Update: Second Proposal for a New Neighboring Right for Press Publishers Released

A while ago we reported that the German Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ, Bundesjustizministerium) published a proposal for the implementation of a new neighboring right for press publishers.

Last Friday, a second draft for implementing such a new neighboring right into the German Copyright Code has been published by the Ministry. Compared to the first draft, the scope of the new neighboring right is far more limited: according to the new draft press publishers will only have a claim for remuneration against search engine companies. Other users like bloggers, companies other than press publishers or law firms would not need to obtain a license from the press publisher if they make available a press product.   Continue reading

Update: Liability for the child’s copyright infringement

Three weeks after the Higher Regional Court of Cologne (Oberlandesgericht, OLG Köln, decision of 06/04/2012 – 6 W 81/12 – we reported) found parents to be obliged to control what their children are doing online, even if the children are of age, the Regional Court of Hamburg (Landgericht Hamburg, LG Hamburg, decision of 06/21/2012 – 308 O 495/11) now held the parent’s obligation to control their grown children to be “unreasonable”. ”. According to the judges in Hamburg, parents can rely on their grown children knowing what they are doing online and knowing if they are infringing copyrights. Therefore, parents can neither be held responsible for not instructing their grown children how to “behave” online, nor for not checking up on what their children are doing online. The obligation to control children of age is found to contradict the “family’s bonds” in cases where there has not been prior reason to believe the child is infringing third party’s copyrights. In addition, a child of age cannot be expected to respect such parental control.

Liability for the spouse’s or child’s copyright infringement

Under German civil law copyright infringements through filesharing can basically be pursued in two ways. On the one hand, it is obviously possible to pursue claims against the person who actually makes the copyrighted material accessible via internet. This person may be the actual perpetrator of the copyright infringement or  someone who deliberately aids and abets the perpetrator committing the copyright infringement. On the other hand, right holders can also try to catch any person who – without being the actual infringer/ abettor –contributed to someone else’s copyright infringement in any way. The courts have repeatedly found such third parties responsible for copyright infringements (see, for example, Federal Supreme Court aka Bundesgerichtshof aka BGH, decision of 11/03/2004 – 1 ZR 304/01 and decision of 04/19/2007 – I ZR 35/04). Continue reading

German Federal Supreme Court on file hoster responsibility for third party content – “Rapidshare”

The German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) delivered yesterday a decision on file hosters‘ duties regarding copyright infringements committed by their users (more on the general topic of the responsibility for third party content here and here). The written opinion is not published yet, but here is a short summary of the German press release. Continue reading

YouTube v. GEMA Decision by Hamburg District Court

After having uploaded quite some posts about how liability for third party Internet content works in German law, and having done so in rather abstract terms (in part, admittedly, for shying away from translating dozens of pages of court decisions) here is a good example of how it works in practice. A colleague from Italy has thankfully posted an English translation of the YouTube v. GEMA decision of the Hamburg District Court of April 20, 2012 on his blog. Continue reading

Confiscation of Facebook Accounts in Criminal Proceedings

Social networks enjoy great popularity among online users. In Germany, more than 50 percent of all users surf on social networks on a weekly basis. In more than 50 percent the social network of choice is Facebook. But Facebook not only has the highest amount of users. They are also the most active, show the highest rate of general online activity (e.g. online shopping) and thus have the highest e-commerce-potential. Therefore, there has not been a way around Facebook for online shops for quite some time (more statistics on Facebook can be found here).

Now, there no longer seems to be a way around Facebook for state institutions, especially law enforcement agencies, neither.

Continue reading

Who May Photograph Your Cow?

Imagine, you own a cow. Someone comes to your farm, takes a photo of your cow, leaves, and a few weeks later you find this photo on some commercial website. Can you do anything against it? Do you have an exclusive right to make and distribute photos of your cow? The Local Court of Cologne decided on this situation two years ago and said: No, taking photographs of someone’s cow does not infringe on any exclusive rights of the cow’s owner, and a photographer may publish photos taken of this cow.

I mention this because a three-week old decision by the District Court of Berlin (Landgericht Berlin) I just read reminded me of this curious case. However, it seems that (absurdly) the Berlin court would have ruled in favor of the cow’s owner. Let’s take a look: Continue reading

Proposal for a New Neighboring Right for Press Publishers

The German Federal Ministry of Justice has published the long-awaited proposal for the implementation of a new neighboring right for press publishers. According to the reason given for the draft, press publishers will be granted the neighboring right in order to ease their lives in our digital times (by way of making sure that they receive a compensation for the specific work that they do).

For more than three years, press publishers have lobbied for a new IPR as a prerequisite to maintain quality journalism in the digital age. As was to be expected, the request has been quite heavily criticized by renowned scholars, the German industry and interest groups like IGEL (initiative against a neighboring right for press publishers) – with quite a notable list of supporters. The most notable opponent of such a new right (and main target of the press publishers) is Google, aka the usual suspect.

From the point of view of the press publishers who want and need to be able to gain noteworthy profits from their online press publications, Google’s business model unjustly exploits their content and publications. News aggregators like Google News are said to be a prime example of the internet age’s free riding business models massively harming the press publishers as advertising budgets are not spent where the content comes from. On the other hand, a neighboring right that will protect an individual sentence or a few words taken from an article would obviously be substantially cutting into freedoms that most Internet users have become accustomed to. Continue reading

On Liability and Liability Clauses in German Law

When you negotiate agreements between German companies and companies with a – broadly speaking – common law background, especially the U.S., one issue that keeps appearing is the parties’ liability for damages. Groundhog day, if you will.

“Liability” is certainly a difficult legal term to being with, especially as you have to first decide what you are actually talking about when using the word. Continue reading