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Hyperlinks and Criminal Law - Can linking bring you into prison?


Alvar Freude - Burkhard Schröder - Stricker - LGCM - Rediff’s search engine - Osaka District Court: FLMask



Alvar Freude

The founder of a German online protest forum against web censorship ( was sentenced by the district court in Stuttgart for linking to e.g. one of the world's most popular Internet destinations -- Don Black's, based in the United States. He was found guilty of "aiding and abetting access" to material published by people "inciting racial hatred [and] denying the Holocaust" - a criminal offense in Germany.

Freude tried hard to convince the court that the Nazi links were merely documenting part of a website-blocking case. To block access is the wrong way to fight Neo-nazism, he argued. It could even endanger the constitutional right to freedom of information, since blocking lists might grow once the precedent was set.
  • October 12, 2004: Glassner, Oliver, Das Stuttgarter Linkurteil: Eine Verschwörung dummer Juristen?, Telepolis:
    "Alvar Freude wurde zu einer Geldstrafe von 120 Tagessätzen à 25 Euro, also 3000 Euro verurteilt, weil er im Rahmen einer Dokumentation zu den Internet-Sperrungsverfügungen der Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf genau die drei amerikanischen Websites verlinkte, die man in Nordrhein-Westfalen für Landeskinder sperren will."
  • October 8, 2004: Ermert, Monika, German fined for publishing neo-Nazi web links, The Register:
    "Linking to neo-Nazi websites in Germany can cost you dear. The founder of a German online protest forum - - against web censorship was sentenced by the district court in Stuttgart today for linking to two neo-Nazi sites and a bad-taste website hosted in the US."
  • October 7, 2004, Netzaktivist wegen Hyperlinks zu Geldstrafe verurteilt, Heise:
    "Am heutigen Donnerstag Nachmittag hat Strafrichterin Mahringer den Netzaktivisten Alvar Freude wegen Volksverhetzung und Beihilfe zur Verbreitung von Nazi-Propaganda zu einer Geldstrafe von 120 Tagessätzen verurteilt."
  • September 29, 2004: Prozess gegen Netzaktivisten wegen Hyperlinks, Heise:
    "In Stuttgart beginnt am kommenden Donnerstag (7. Oktober) der Prozess gegen den Netzkünstler und Online-Aktivisten Alvar Freude. Die Staatsanwaltschaft wirft Freude vor, durch Hyperlinks in einer Dokumentation über die umstrittenen Sperrverfügungen der Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf sowie in der Zensur-Satire FreedomFone "vorsätzlich Beihilfe zur Verbreitung nationalsozialistischer Propagandamittel" geleistet zu haben."
  • September 27, 2004: Links und Recht(s) - Behörden und Justiz verirren sich im Internet, Odem:
    "Sind Links auf unerwünschte Seiten (immer) strafbar – oder kommt es auf den Kontext an? Mit dieser Frage wird sich das Amtsgericht Stuttgart am 7. Oktober 2004 beschäftigen müssen."

Update August 2005

A Stuttgart appeals court has ruled that media designer Alvar Freude is not guilty of aiding and abetting in incitement to hatred and violence against minority groups by linking to e.g. documents that deny  the Holocaust. According to the judges Freude's reporting about Nazi web sites, which caused the district government of Dusseldorf to file charges, constitutes documentation of historical events.


Burkhard Schröder

Burkhard Schröder wanted to inform people about right-wing extremism. His website contained a large collection of links to racist organisations. Criminal proceedings against him were finally closed.


Auch Berlins (EX-!) Senatssprecher Helmut Lölhöffel war in die Affäre um die Verbreitung von Nazi-Propaganda durch den Journalisten Burkhard Schröder verwickelt, Berliner Institut für Faschismus-Forschung



Is it illegal to link to an anti-racist website like Stop the Hate that contains links to websites operated by racist groups? In February 2000, Switch Professor Stricker was accused of spreading and promoting racist propaganda. Criminal proceedings were commenced. In September 2002 Professor Stricker was acquitted. 

Also see the Decision Section: September 9, 2002



About a police investigation in the United Kingdom because of a link to a poem, that is illegal in England. The poem was banned under English Blasphemy law.

  • Black, Jane, Link to explicit poem deemed OK, CNet:
    "Police in the United Kingdom have decided not to bring charges against the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, whose Web site provided a link to a controversial poem."


Rediff’s search engine

In India a complaint was filed against six directors of Rediff’s search engine, which gave access to pornographic material.

  • December 4, 2000: Joseph, Manu, Porn a Thorn for Indian Portal, Wired:
    "In a court order that could have serious legal ramifications in India, a judge in Pune has put six directors of a premier portal called on trial for "giving access to pornographic material."
  • October 2, 2000: Joshi, Manoj, India Wrestles With Net Porn, Wired:
    "Attorney Rohas Nagpal, working on behalf of law student Abhinav, claims that, a premier Indian site listed on the Nasdaq, can be punished under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code because its search engine gives access to millions of pornographic sites."


Osaka District Court: FLMask

According to an Osaka District Court ruling, a webmaster linking to a website that is in violation of the law, can be charged with aiding and abetting the crime. Even if he is unaware of the content of the linked page, the decision would hold him liable.

  • June 2000: Scuka, Daniel, Japan Walks Where the US Fears to Tread, Japan Inc.:
    "Japan has again chosen the path less traveled by in this country's quest to resolve issues of law and the Internet: a recent Osaka District Court ruling found that, in some cases, links from one site to another may be considered a breach of law."
  • April 7, 2000: Tanaka, Kazumi, Web Links Can Be Considered Illegal, Osaka Court Judgement Says, Asia Biz Tech:
    "A landmark verdict handed down on March 30 by the Osaka District Court states that, under certain sets of conditions, links used to connect one Web page to another could be considered an infringement of the law."


Linking Cases

There have been a lot of lawsuits concerning linking, framing and search engine issues in the last years. In this section you'll find short introductions into the different cases and links to news articles about it. 

An overview over featured cases can be found here!

Latest News - Update 71

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EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



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