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

Hyperlink & Search Engine Law News  Decisions & Court Documents Worldwide Legal Resources (Hyperlink & Search Engine Law Articles) Linking Law Cases Search Engine Law Publications by Dr. Stephan Ott Technical    Background

Laws & Regulations


§ 512 DMCA - Limitations on liability relating to material online (USA)  - Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 - UTAH SB 236 - FTC/Self-Regulatory Principles on Behavioral Advertising - Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 - Sec. 421. Distribution of information relating to manufacture of controlled substances (USA) - Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act (USA) - The Online Privacy and Disclosure Act of 2002 (USA) - The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (USA) - Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006 § 17 ECG – Liability for Links (Austria) - 80 Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill - Information location tools (South Africa) - The Dot Kids Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2002 (HR 3833) (USA) - Third-party hyperlinks in auction descriptions (eBay) - European Convention on Cybercrime - Art. 17 LSSICE (Spain)  -  First Report on the application of the E-Commerce-Directive - Warning banners on search engines (recommended EU legislation) - Hyperlinks & Law in Colombia - Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 (Australia)



§ 512 DMCA - Limitations on liability relating to material online (USA)

(d) INFORMATION LOCATION TOOLS.—A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an on-line location containing infringing material or infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hypertext link, if the service provider—

  (1)(A) does not have actual knowledge that the material or activity is infringing;

  (B) in the absence of such actual knowledge, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; or

  (C) upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material;

  (2) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity; and

  (3) upon notification of claimed infringement as described in subsection (c)(3), responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity, except that, for purposes of this paragraph, the information described in subsection (c)(3)(A)(iii) shall be identification of the reference or link, to material or activity claimed to be infringing, that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate that reference or link.  

Study examines DMCA Cease-and-Desist Letters

Laura Quilter and Jennifer Urban, Director of the Intellectual Property Clinic at the University of Southern California, have released a summary report of findings from a study of takedown notices sent pursuant to Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and submitted by the recipients to the Chilling Effects clearinghouse. The report, titled "Efficient Process or 'Chilling Effects'? Takedown Notices Under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," traces the use of the Section 512 takedown process.

According to the report nearly one-third of takedown notices submitted to online service providers under the DMCA are for claims that may not justify takedown. One of 11 notices had significant statutory flaws (failure to properly identify the allegedly infringing work, failure to provide contact information, failure to provide a way to locate the allegedly infringing work etc.), that render them invalid.

Another result of the study: Businesses targeting apparent competitors accounted for 57 % of the takedown notices submitted to Google Inc. seeking removal of links from the index.


Global Online Freedom Act of 2007

The Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 was approved in a unanimous voice vote by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill seeks to "prohibit US internet companies from cooperating with repressive regimes that restrict information about human rights and democracy on the internet and use personally identifiable information to track down and punish democracy activists."

Under § 202 of The Global Online Freedom Act of 2006, businesses that provide search engine services would be prohibited from altering the operation of the search engine with respect to “protected filter terms” at the request of the governments of designated Internet-restricting countries like China, or in a manner that would
be likely to produce different search results for users accessing the service from within the designated countries.This requirement was removed from GOFA in June 2007.
Under § 203 of The Global Online Freedom Act of 2007, businesses providing search engine services would only be required to report to a newly-created Office of Global Internet Freedom the terms and requirements for filtering that are specified to them by the governments of designated countries.


SEC. 203. Transparency regarding search engine filtering (Global Online Freedom Act of 2007)

    Any United States business that creates, provides, or hosts an Internet search engine shall provide the Office of Global Internet Freedom, in a format and with a frequency to be specified by the Office, with all terms and parameters used to filter, limit, or otherwise affect the results provided by the search engine that are implemented--

      (1) at the request of, or by reason of any other direct or indirect communication by, any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country; or

      (2) to comply with a policy or practice of restrictions on Internet freedom in an Internet-restricting country.


SEC. 202. Integrity of search engines (Global Online Freedom Act of 2006)

    Any United States business that creates, provides, or hosts any Internet search engine may not alter the operation of such search engine with respect to protected filter terms either--

      (1) at the request of, or by reason of any other direct or indirect communication by, of a foreign official of an Internet-restricting country; or

      (2) in a manner intended or likely to produce different search engine results for users accessing the search engine from within an Internet-restricting country as compared to users elsewhere.


Utah SB 236

Utah last month enacted Utah SB 236, the "Trademark Protection Act," a law that effectively prohibits the competitive use of trademarked terms as keyword advertising triggers. The Act establishes a new type of mark called an Electronic Registration Mark. Once a mark is electronically registered, the statute prohibits use of the Electronic Registration Mark to trigger advertising for a business, goods, or services of the same class as those represented by the Electronic Registration Mark.

What happened to lawful competitive advertsising? No wonder, the new law isn't winning any praise. A Google spokesman said Google believes the new law is likely to be challenged in court and struck down as unconstitutional.

After a meeting with senior executives from Google, eBay, Microsoft, America Online, Yahoo, 1-800 Contacts and met, the state has a better idea of who they are up against and now have to decide if the law is worth a legal fight. Rep. David Clark, House majority leader and co-sponsor of the suddenly controversial legislation said after the meeting: "I don't know that we'll repeal it, but we understand we've got some work to do."

In March 2008, the Utah legislature finally amended the bill  and removed the provisions of the law which prohibited this type of keyword advertising.

For more information on the bill, check out Eric Goldman's blog entries on" the Utah legislature, the Dr. Frankenstein of Internet regulation."


FTC - Self-Regulatory Principles on Behavioral Advertising

In December 2007, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a set of proposed principles to guide the development of self-regulation in the area of online behavioral advertising. Behavioral advertising means the tracking of a consumer’s activities online – including the searches the consumer has conducted, the web pages visited, and the content viewed – in order to deliver advertising targeted to the individual consumer’s interests. One proposal is aimed at more transparency and consumer control:

"Every website where data is collected for behavioral advertising should provide a clear, concise, consumer-friendly, and prominent statement that

(1) data about consumers' activities online is being collected at the site for use in providing advertising about products and services tailored to individual consumers’ interests, and

(2) consumers can choose whether or not to have their information collected for such purpose. The website should also provide consumers with a clear, easy-to-use, and accessible method for exercising this option."

The guidelines are partly intended to adress concerns over the Google-DoubleClick deal. So far Google is not engaged in behavioral advertising, but declines to say whether the merger will facilitate respective plans.

 Also see:

  • Alexis, Alexei, Behavioral Advertising - Search Engine Firms Expected to Face Continued Hill Scutiny, Electronic Commerce & Law Report 2008, 121-123



Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 - Sec. 421. Distribution of information relating to manufacture of controlled substances (USA)  

(a) Prohibition on distribution of information relating to manufacture of controlled substances

(1) Controlled substance defined - In this subsection, the term `controlled substance' has the meaning given that term in section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(6)).

(2) Prohibition - It shall be unlawful for any person--

(A) to teach or demonstrate the manufacture of a controlled substance, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of a controlled substance, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime; or

(B) to teach or demonstrate to any person the manufacture of a controlled substance, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of a controlled substance, knowing that such person intends to use the teaching, demonstration, or information for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime.


Is it a federal crime to knowingly link to drug-related websites?

  • August 23, 2000: McCullagh, Declan, Only News That’s Fit To Link, Wired:
    "Internet journalists, beware: A recent ruling by a federal judge could imperil your ability to place hyperlinks in some news articles."

Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act (USA)

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act was approved by the House Judiciary crime subcommittee. The bill could require Internet service providers to delete hyperlinks to offshore gambling sites.


The Online Privacy and Disclosure Act of 2002

The proposed Online Privacy and Disclosure Act of 2002, inter alia, contends that the company can reserve the right to change its privacy policy without notice to the individual, but must provide hyperlinks to at least three of the most recent privacy policies if they are substantially different in some form or fashion from the current privacy policy.


The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (USA)


The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) is U.S. Congressional legislation which regulates the financing of political campaigns. It is also known as the McCain-Feingold law. It was carefully drafted NOT to include online press, commentary or blogs.This allowed people last year to direct visitors to the official Website of any presidential candidate without that link being considered a contribution to the campaign, a political activity or an illegal donation.


Also last year a federal judge ruled that many of the F.E.C. rules were too lax and specifically asked it to address the question of Internet activity:  The "exclusion of Internet communications from the coordinated communications regulation severely undermines" the campaign finance law's purposes. So these days the Federal Election Commission is beginning the process of extending its controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the internet. One question will be, whether a Web page's link to a candidate's site constitutes a contribution. But how would that be calculated? (By law, contributions over $1,000 or services of an equivalent value must be made public).  The ideas on this are getting very bizare: The FEC already has received an advisory opinion suggesting the value placed on a blog that praises a politician or links to a campaign website might be based on what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.


The campaign finance law has a press exemption, but it is unclear whether bloggers or online journals fit that description. Several news sources and blogs have specualted if the extension of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 could mean fines to sites that improperly link to official campaign sites or even the end of political blogs.


  • March 6, 2005: Kornblut, Anne, F.E.C. to Consider Internet Politicking, New York Times:
    Federal election commissioners are preparing to consider how revamped campaign finance laws apply to political activity on the Internet, including online advertising, fund-raising e-mail messages and Web logs."

  • March 3, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, The coming crackdown on blogging, CNet:
    In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site.

  • February 15, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, Political Web ads may be curtailed, CNet:
    "The Federal Election Commission plans to begin reviewing next month whether the Internet should continue to enjoy its privileged status as exempt from some of the stricter dictates of a 2002 campaign finance law."


On March 8 Sens. McCain and Feingold issued a statement: "... The latest misinformation from the anti-reform crowd is the suggestion that our bill will require regulation of blogs and other Internet communications. A recent federal court decision requires the Federal Election Commission to open a new rulemaking on Internet communications. The FEC will be looking at whether and how paid advertising on the Internet should be treated, i.e., should it be treated differently than paid advertising on television or radio.... So far, the FEC has not even proposed new regulations... This issue has nothing to with private citizens communicating on the Internet. There is simply no reason - none - to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens. Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of reform to whip up baseless fears. BCRA was intended to empower ordinary citizens, and it has been successful in doing so. We will continue to fight for that goal."


Update 29:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued proposed rules attempting to eliminate any restrictions on political blogging. The Commission will take a minimalist approach to regulating political campaign activities on the Internet. The proposed regulations specifically exempt any Internet activity by unpaid individuals or volunteers in their own residences, on their own equipment or on publicly available equipment. This ends the discussion, whether a Web page's link to a candidate's site can constitutes a contribution, before it really started.

  •  March 24, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, Bloggers narrowly dodge federal crackdown, CNet:

    "Political bloggers and other online commentators narrowly avoided being slammed with a sweeping set of Internet regulations this week."

  • March 21, 2005: McCullagh, Declan, Internet election rules could be blocked, CNet:
    "The Internet would be immune from campaign finance laws that could restrict freewheeling political discourse, according to a new proposal in Congress."


Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will push for new legislation that requires all commercial Web sites to label every page that includes adult material in an effort to protect Web users from pornography. The proposed law is called "Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006" and would prohibit commercial Web sites from initially displaying sexually explicit material without further action, such as an additional click. The DOJ initiative would also make it illegal for a person to knowingly deceive others into viewing obscene materials. This could effect the use of metatags, cloaking, doorway pages or other search engine manipulation methods that are used by e.g. some porno-sites that try to lure people to their sites although they are searching for "innocious content" like toy names or popular film stars.

  • McCullagh, Declan, Gonzales calls for mandatory Web labeling law, CNet:
    "Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must place official government warning labels on their pages or risk being imprisoned for up to five years, the Bush administration proposed Thursday."

July 2006 Update:

The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act has been signed into Law by President Bush. The law is designed to stop sites with potentially offensive material using meta tags to attract viewers under false pretences.

"Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 10 years," says the bill.

It carries a stiffer penalty for activity aimed at children: "Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the internet shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 20 years."

Full text of the bill


§ 17 ECG – Liability for Links (Austria)

(1) Ein Diensteanbieter, der mittels eines elektronischen Verweises einen Zugang zu fremden Informationen eröffnet, ist für diese Informationen nicht verantwortlich,

1. sofern er von einer rechtswidrigen Tätigkeit oder Information keine tatsächliche Kenntnis hat und sich in Bezug auf Schadenersatzansprüche auch keiner Tatsachen oder Umstände bewusst ist, aus denen eine rechtswidrige Tätigkeit oder Information offensichtlich wird, oder,

2. sobald er diese Kenntnis oder dieses Bewusstsein erlangt hat, unverzüglich tätig wird, um den elektronischen Verweis zu entfernen.

(2) Abs. 1 ist nicht anzuwenden, wenn die Person, von der die Informationen stammen, dem Diensteanbieter untersteht oder von ihm beaufsichtigt wird oder der Diensteanbieter die fremden Informationen als seine eigenen darstellt.

80 Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill - Information location tools (South Africa)

A service provider is not liable for damages incurred by a person if the service provider refers or links users to a web page containing an infringing data message or infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hyperlink, where the service provider—

(a) does not have actual knowledge that the data message or an activity relating to the data message is infringing the rights of that person;

(b) is not aware of facts or circumstances from which the infringing activity or the infringing nature of the data message is apparent;

(c) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity; and

(d) removes, or disables access to, the reference or link to the data message or activity within a reasonable time after being informed that the data message or the activity relating to such data message, infringes the rights of a person.  

The Dot Kids Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2002 (HR 3833)

The United States Senate passed the Dot Kids Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2002 (HR 3833), which establishes an Internet domain ( as a kids-friendly area on the World Wide Web. Hyperlinks to websites outside the kids area will be prohibited. In December President George W. Bush signed into law the .kids bill.

  • December 5, 2002: US-Präsident unterzeichnet Gesetz für Kinder-Domain, Heise:
    "Mit dem gestern von US-Präsident George W. Bush unterzeichneten "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002" hat die US-Regierung die organisatorischen Bedingungen für eine "kindgerechte" Internet-Domain geschaffen."
  • December 5, 2002: Rötzer, Florian, Virtueller Grünlichtbezirk für Kinder, Telepolis:
    "Präsident Bush unterzeichnet das Gesetz zur Schaffung einer geschützten und sauberen"
  • November 16, 2002: Marilyn, Geewax, House bill creates “safe haven” for kids on Internet, Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
    "The Internet soon will have a child-friendly neighborhood, located at ""
  • November 16, 2002: Rötzer, Florian, Ein abgeschlossener Kinderspielplatz im Internet, Telepolis:
    "Ein nun dem US-Präsidenten vorliegendes Gesetz will eine kontrollierte einführen, um den Kindern (und Eltern) einen sicheren und sauberen Ort zur Verfügung zu stellen." 
  • November 15, 2002: AP, Kids Get Safe Internet Haven, Wired:
    "Congress approved legislation Friday to create a safe haven on the Internet for children, where parents can be assured websites are free of pornography and other material not suitable for youngsters."   

Update January 2004:

Is there a legal difference between a hyperlink and a URL?

In 2002 The United States Senate passed the Dot Kids Implementation and Enforcement Act of 2002 (HR 3833), which established an Internet domain ( as a kids-friendly area on the World Wide Web.  NeuStar, Inc., has been appointed to be the administrator of the domain name space by the DoC to operate a shared registrations system, domain name servers, and other equipment for the second-level domain (For more information see the Laws and Regulations section).

Because there is no foolproof method for protecting children online at this time, the Act specifies limitations put on specific technologies commonly used on the Internet today.  Hyperlinks that take a user outside of the domain are prohibited from use in any domain.

At the moment there are 6 websites. Three of them don't link to websites outside the domain or mention them ( / /

The website lists several attractions in Minnesota that might be of interest for kids, e.g. museums. If a museum has a website, the site is mentioned, but no link is provided (e.g. Bakken Library and Museum: You have probably seen a movie in which Dr. Frankenstein catches lightning to shock a body to life. However, what happens with electricity and magnetism and the human body in real life?  The answers may shock you!  Lots of people have little machines in them that use electricity to help their hearts beat better. Find out all about electricity, magnetism, medicine, and history at the Bakken Library and Museum....  Check out at their website or give them a call at 612-926-3878 for  more information.) 

Two other websites seem to have found a way around the restriction not to hyperlink. Instead of providing hyperlinks they merely provide the URL. See (e.g. The American Presidency - and (America's Story ( - Discover the stories of America's past.Jump back in time, meet amazing Americans, explore the states and more.)

Are these two websites in contradiction to the no hyperlinks regulation? Well, a "hyperlink" is generally a word or a picture that can be activated by a click of the mouse to transport the user to another website. That is not the case here, but there is no great difference between a URL and a hyperlink. There is no reason to believe kids wont be able to reach the websites mentioned even if there is no hyperlink. Copy and Paste and the job is done. Sure, the mentioned websites outside the domain probably wont be harmful to minors, but where is the sense in prohibiting hyperlinks when you allow the posting of URL's? We already have several software programs that recognize a URL and automatically convert it into a hyperlink (e.g. Word or Front Page). Are there already browsers out there that can do the same job? 

Can there be another legal approach to a hyperlink than to a URL? I don't think so. The legislator didn't want kids to find an easy way to a website outside the domain. So hyperlinks were not allowed. On the one hand the idea of creating a safe haven for kids on the internet would already be at its end, if the law is not construed in a way that it also prohibits the posting of URL's. On the other hand there are serious concerns that a wide interpretation of the law could violate the First Amendment. NeuStar, Inc. did not answer an e-mail asking for their point of view on the topic.  

Several other websites also prohibit their users from posting hyperlinks, especially dating and auction sites. e.g. prohibits links to websites outside the ebay-Domain. Their terms of use expressly state that URL adresses count as links. 

Third-party hyperlinks in auction descriptions (eBay)

eBay ended some auctions because they contained links to the BidRobot website. EBay’s Links policy prohibits the inclusion of third-party hyperlinks with some exceptions.

Also see:

In 2001, eBay implemented a linking policy to keep sellers from linking from the auction description to a website where they could sell an item directly without waiting for the auction to end.

  • June 7, 2001: Steiner, Ina, eBay Adresses ReturnBuy Policy Violations, Auctionbytes-NewsFlash:
      "In a previous NewsFlash, AuctionBytes reported that ReturnBuy was in violation of eBay's links policy and failed to maintain the required positive feedback ratio of 98% to retain Power Seller status."

EBay’s link policy: "The eBay item page can only be used to describe, promote and facilitate the sale of the listed eBay item - it cannot refer to or promote the seller's individual web site, off eBay sales or other businesses. The eBay About Me page is a place where the seller can promote their individual web site or business…." 

European Convention on Cybercrime

An update of the European Convention on Cybercrime could criminalize hyperlinks to hate speech websites.

  • November 11, 2002: EU-Ministerrat fordert Gesetze gegen Rassismus im Internet, Heise:
    "Der EU-Ministerrat hat am Donnerstag auf seinem Treffen in Straßburg ein Zusatzprotokoll zur Konvention über Cyberkriminalität angenommen."
  • November 9, 2002: Scheeres, Julia, Europeans Outlaw Net Hate Speech, Wired:
    "The Council of Europe has adopted a measure that would criminalize Internet hate speech, including hyperlinks to pages that contain offensive content."

Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the Criminalisation of Acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, Text


Article 3 – Dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems

1. Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct:

distributing, or otherwise making available, racist and xenophobic material to the public through a computer system.


Explanatory Report Nr. 28.

“Distribution” refers to the active dissemination of racist and xenophobic material, as defined in Article 2 of the Protocol, to others, while “making available” refers to the placing on line of racist and xenophobic material for the use of others. This term also intends to cover the creation or compilation of hyperlinks in order to facilitate access to such material.  


Germany signed the additional protocol, see:

Ley de Servicios de la Sociedad de la Información y de Comercio Electrónico (LSSICE) - Artículo 17. Responsabilidad de los prestadores de servicios que faciliten enlaces a conteni-dos o instrumentos de búsqueda (Spain)

1. Los prestadores de servicios de la sociedad de la información que faciliten enlaces a otros contenidos o incluyan en los suyos directorios o instrumentos de búsqueda de contenidos no serán responsables por la información a la que dirijan a los destinatarios de sus servicios, siempre que:
a) No tengan conocimiento efectivo de que la actividad o la información a la que remiten o recomiendan es ilícita o de que lesiona bienes o derechos de un tercero susceptibles de indemnización, o
b) si lo tienen, actúen con diligencia para suprimir o inutilizar el enlace correspondiente.

Se entenderá que el prestador de servicios tiene el conocimiento efectivo a que se refiere la letra a) cuando un órgano competente haya declarado la ilicitud de los datos, ordenado su retirada o que se imposibilite el acceso a los mismos, o se hubiera declarado la existencia de la lesión, y el prestador conociera la correspondiente resolución, sin perjuicio de los procedimientos de detección y retirada de contenidos que los prestadores apliquen en virtud de acuerdos voluntarios y de otros medios de conocimiento efectivo que pudieran establecerse.

2. La exención de responsabilidad establecida en el apartado primero no operará en el supuesto de que el destinatario del servicio actúe bajo la dirección, autoridad o control del prestador que facilite la localización de esos contenidos.


First Report on the application of the E-Commerce-Directive

The E-Commerce Directive does not specifically deal with the liability for providers of hyperlinks.  But according to Article 21 of the Directive, the Commission shall submit to the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee a report on the application of this Directive before 17 July 2003, and thereafter every two years. In examining the need for an adaptation of this Directive, the report shall in particular analyse the need for proposals concerning the liability of providers of hyperlinks and location tool services, "notice and take down" procedures and the attribution of liability following the taking down of content. 

The first report on the application of the E-Commerce directive adresses the issue of liability for hyperlinks. The report states: 

In addition to the matters dealt with by Articles 12-14, some Member States 68 decided to provide for limitations on the liability of providers of hyperlinks and search engines.69 This was motivated by the wish to create incentives for investment and innovation and enhance the development of e-commerce by providing additional legal clarity for service providers. Whilst it was not considered necessary to cover hyperlinks and search engines in the Directive, the Commission has encouraged Member States to further develop legal security for internet in-termediaries. It is encouraging that recent case-law in the Member States recognizes the importance of linking and search engines to the functioning of the internet. In general, this case-law appears to be in line with the Internal Market objective to ensure the provision of basic intermediary services, which promotes the development of the internet and e-commerce. Consequently, this case-law does not appear to give rise to any Internal Market concerns 70 . 

In a few cases 71 national courts have already interpreted the Directive. However, in these cases, the national implementing measures of the Directive had not yet been adopted in the States concerned.

There is still very little practical experience on the application of Articles 12-14, but the feedback received so far from the Member States and interested parties has, in general, been positive. The approach taken in the Directive appears to have wide reaching support among stakeholders. In any case the Commission will, in accordance with Article 21, continue to monitor and rigorously analyse any new developments, including national legislation, case-law and administrative practices related to intermediary liability and will examine any future need to adapt the present framework in the light of these developments, for instance the need of additional limitations on liability for other activities such as the provision of hyperlinks and search engines.72


68 Spain, Austria and EEA-State Liechtenstein and Portugal in its draft law. 

69 Spain and Portugal have opted for the model of Article 14 both for search engines and hyperlinks, whereas Austria and Liechtenstein have opted for the model of Article 12 for search engines and of Article 14 for hyperlinks. 

70 For example in France TGI Paris, référé, 12 mai 2003, Lorie c/M. G.S. et SA Wanadoo Portails, in Germany in the case Verlagsgruppe Handeslblatt v. Paperboy, aus dem Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), Urteil vom 17. Juli 2003 – I ZR 259/00. 

71 Cases Deutsche Bahn v. XS4ALL, judgement by Gerechtshof te Amsterdam (Court of Appeals), 762/02 SKG, of 7.11.2002, and Deutsche Bahn v. Indymedia, judgement by Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court), KG 02/1073, of 20.6.2002, in the Netherlands (judgements available at; and Case Public Prosecutor v. Tele2 in the EEA-country Norway, judgement by Borgarting Lagmannsrett (Court of Appeals), 02-02539 M/01, of 27.6.2003. Tele2 was acquitted when the public prosecutor dropped charges against it.

72 The approach of the Member States who opted to legislate on the hyperlinks and search engines does not seem to give rise to a risk of fragmentation of the Internal Market. The Commission is, however, actively following work in Member States relating to liability issues such as the fundamental work carried out by "Le Forum des droits sur l'Internet" in France, which has published recommendations on hyperlinks called "Hyperliens: Statut Juridique", published 3.3.2003, and "Quelle responsabilité pour les créateurs d'hyperliens vers des contenus illicites, published 23.10.2003, both available at


The text in German is available here!

Additional Comments: 

Footnote 70 mentiones a verdict in the dispute between Handelsblatt and Paperboy. This case was not about liability for linking to illegal material. The case was about legality of deep linking in Germany.

In the USA, South Africa, Austria and Spain the liability for linking to illegal material is regulated by law


  • E-Commerce Directive  = Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market ('Directive on electronic commerce')
  • First Report on the application of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce); Brussels, 21.11.2003; COM(2003) 702 final
  • Erster Bericht über die Anwendung der Richtlinie 2000/31/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 8. Juni 2000 über bestimmte rechtliche Aspekte der Dienste der Informationsgesellschaft, insbesondere des elektronischen Geschäftsverkehrs, im Binnenmarkt (Richtlinie über den elektronischen Geschäftsverkehr)


Do we really need warning banners on all search engines?

The European Parliament Sept. 7 called for action to protect children from inappropriate content on the Internet. In adopting a report from Marielle De Sarnez on the protection of minors and human dignity, the Parliament inter alia made the (non-binding) recommendation to oblige search engines to post warning banners  drawing attention to possible dangers and to the availability of telephone hotlines.

Member States are to submit a report to the Commission on measures taken in application of this Recommendation two years after its adoption. By 31 December 2008, on the basis of the reports submitted by the Member States, the Commission will submit to the European Parliament a report on the implementation and effectiveness of the measures laid down in this recommendation, identifying any additional measures which may be necessary, including binding legislation at European level.

Text adopted by Parliament,


Hyperlinks & Law in Colombia

A visitor from Colombia sent me a comment from the National Copyright Office which deals with hyperlinks. Due to my lack of the Spanish language and the inefficiency of automated translation programs, I did not understand very much of it. As far as I can tell, the Colombian Law gives an author the exclusive right to make his work available online. In the opinion of the Copyright Office, hyperlinks can violate that right. This is contrary to what most courts have decided on this topic worldwide. If you are interested in the comment, don't hesitate to contact me and I will e-mail it to you.  The essential part of it could be the following:

"Como se puede observar, en uno u otro caso, el hipervínculo permite interconectar diversos sitios en la web, con lo cual, es fundamental entender que un link no es, simplemente, una nota de pie de página que pretende facilitarle al lector información adicional del tema que se encuentra en otro sitio. (...) tiene un elemento de contenido. Su elemento operativo radica en el código fuente que instruye al browser para que muestre un contenido que se encuentra en otra página de internet. Su elemento de contenido se constituye en el material al cual se dirige

El anterior análisis nos permite identificar, que si con estos hipervínculos se enlazan contenidos protegidos por el derecho de autor, será necesario entonces, contar con la autorización del autor o del titular del derecho.

En este sentido, el artículo 8 del Tratado de la OMPI sobre Derecho de Autor, establece a favor de los autores de obras literarias y artísticas el derecho exclusivo de autorizar la puesta a disposición del público de sus obras, a través de medios alámbricos o inalámbricos, que permita a los miembros del público acceder a estas obras desde el lugar y en el momento que cada uno de ellos elija.

Retomando precisiones anteriormente hechas de carácter técnico, en el momento de tener almacenados contenidos (hipertextos) y permitir, por medio de hipervínculos, el acceso a contenidos protegidos por el derecho de autor, se debe contar con la autorización previa y expresa de los titulares de los derechos patrimoniales de tales obras, por darse otro acto de comunicación pública en el entorno digital, como es la puesta a disposición del público que atiende al principio general del derecho exclusivo de orden patrimonial que tiene el titular de realizar, autorizar o prohibir cualquier clase de uso respecto de su creación."


 Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 (Australia)

Google has warned that proposed changes to Australia's copyright laws could open the way for copyright owners to take legal action against search engines for caching and archiving and thus drive the country back to "the pre-Internet era". "Given the vast size of the Internet, it is impossible for a search engine to contact personally each owner of a web page to determine whether the owner desires its web page to be searched, indexed or cached," Google said. "If such advanced permission was required, the internet would promplty grind to a halt."

  • November 7, 2006: New Australian copyright rules 'restrictive': Google, Sydney Morning Herald:
    "Internet search engine Google has asked for more flexibility in new federal copyright laws, warning Australian businesses could be held back because the new rules are too restrictive."

For more information on the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 (Text of the bill and Explanatory memoranda) visit the Australian Copyright Council Website!




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

Legal trouble for YouTube in Germany

Germany: Employer may google job applicant

EU: Consultation on the E-Commerce-Directive

WIPO Paper on tradmarks and the internet

The ECJ and the AdWords Cases



Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
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