Hamburg decision on forum liability

The Hamburg Landgericht (a bit like the High Court in England and Wales) recently published the grounds for its December decision in what we might call Mario Dolzer v. Heise Verlag. Here’s how The Register put it:

bq. A Hamburg court has ruled that moderators of internet forums are liable for content posted on their sites.
The previous interpretation held that they were only accountable for illegal content they had been made aware of. The new ruling means if operators do not have enough in-house resources to monitor forums, they should “reduce the scope of their business operations”.

I read the decision and some commentaries on it. It’s being appealed, so it isn’t final. Still, I don’t really know:

how far its reach is (Sascha Kremer suggests it is about forums with editorial content)

whether it affects forums without a foot in Germany (it seems clear there are lawyers in Germany permitted and inclined to make like difficult for all and sundry, but would a Welsh rugby forum have difficulties here?)

will a lot of weblog owners with controversial discussions be sued, whether or not successfully?

what is the effect of what I would call a lot of obiter dicta in a country theoretically without a system of precedent? (Actually there is a lot of judge-made law in Germany, just as there was in the Gründerjahre)

Here is the decision in German (with typos)
Heise in English
The German American Law Journal Blog in English (headed ‘Massively chilled speech’ – but surely what Heise permitted was the equivalent of shouting Fire! in a crowded theatre?=
Sascha Kremer in German (was also on lawblog)
Dr. Martin Bahr in German

2 thoughts on “Hamburg decision on forum liability

  1. Welsh Rugby Online ( for those not in the know) has contributors around the world, including Germany, so I suppose it depends on whether the court considers the place of hosting to be more important than the place of posting?

    My concern is about the comments attributed by The Register to the court that ‘if operators do not have enough in-house resources to monitor forums, they should “reduce the scope of their business operations”‘. For me, this signals an end for independent, volunteer-run support forums. Even large-scale operations such as Proz, which has moderators in various timezones, would not necessarily be able to monitor its large number of forums to the extent required by this court’s decision. As for my own forum at tw_users, I certainly couldn’t take that responsibility (or would it pass to Yahoo, since Yahoo hosts the forum?).

    As you say, Margaret, there are too many questions left unanswered just yet.

  2. Where does the Register get the “moderators” bit from? My understanding was that the decision applied to all those who supply the infrastructure for internet forums; and my worry is that, for example, it would mean would close.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.