According to German telemedia law, each person and company
maintaining an own website to sell goods or services is required to
make available certain information (so called "Imprint"
or "About US") in a way which easily enables recognition,
and which is directly accessible as well as consistently available.
Recently German courts have begun to impose the duty to use an
imprint on the hosts of an own presence within a social media
platform. Thus, the District Courts of Aschaffenburg and Regensburg
have decided in 2011 and 2013 explicitly with regard to the hosts
of individual Facebook websites that they have to use an own
imprint if such Facebook website is used as an entry channel to an
own website (outside of Facebook) on which professional services
are offered for remuneration or if the Facebook account is used for
marketing purposes and not solely in a private way.
This jurisdiction does now find its continuation with two
further verdicts that have been handed down in the more recent
At first, the District Court in Stuttgart purported an
obligation to use an imprint for an individual profile of an
attorney at a lawyer's portal (kanzlei-seiten.de) by means of a
verdict dated April 24, 2014 (case no: 11 O 72/14).
Afterwards, the District Court in Munich decided by verdict
dated June 3, 2014 (case no: 33 O 4149/14) with regard to a member
of the internet platform XING that the publication of an individual
profile may already be deemed a relevant commercial activity and a
breach of German competition law which may lead to the receipt of
legal warning letters if they do not contain an own imprint. This
decision also dealt with an attorney who set forth his professional
qualifications and the name of his law firm as part of his own
personal XING profile. According to the District Court in Munich,
this would exceed a mere private use which is not subject to the
requirement of an imprint. Quite the contrary, containing this
information, the website would be suited for promoting the sale of
the offered legal services from an objective point of view.
In conclusion, even the use of a seemingly private profile may
coerce to the use of an imprint, at least in the instance a
professional connection is established within this profile,
primarily by referring to the employer or company for which the
respective person works. This principle will not only apply to
attorneys, but to all entrepreneurs, companies and professional
guilds. If, nonetheless, no imprint is made available in the
individual Social Media profile, the hosting of such website may
result in the receipt of warning letters or even injunctions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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