Sunday, November 29, 2015

BGH Accepts Website Blocking Injunctions

Just on this Thursday, the German Federal Supreme Court issued a press release informing that it has decided two long-excepted website blocking cases (I ZR 3/14, I ZR 174/14). Although we still have to wait couple of months for the text of the decision, there are several interesting aspects that are clear already:
  • First, the Court accepted privately litigated IP website-blocking in Germany. Even more, the Court - similarly as the Austrian Supreme Court in UPC Telekabel and the English High Court in Cartier v Sky - recognized that the availability of this remedy is compulsory under Art. 8(3) InfoSoc Directive. 
  • Second, the Court has effectively corrupted its own previous case-law on adequately-causal contribution to the infringements, since it seems to claim that even an access provider contributes to infringements of third parties. The German scholars who (for many good reasons) argued that Stoererhaftung converges with the tort-law might get unpleasantly surprised by this proposition. Just try to imagine that this broadly read adequate-causality is one day implemented in tort-law ..
  • Third, the Court seems to have decided that the injunction is only reasonable if the access provider is the last enforcement resort, i.e. the right holders tries to enforce his rights against the real infringers first (websites or its hosts) or if such direct enforcement seems without any success from the outset ("Nur wenn die Inanspruchnahme dieser Beteiligten scheitert oder ihr jede Erfolgsaussicht fehlt und deshalb andernfalls eine Rechtsschutzlücke entstünde, ist die Inanspruchnahme des Access-Providers als Störer zumutbar."). For these purposes, the right holder should take all reasonable steps, including commissioning of the investigation by a specialized firm or instituting an investigation before the state authorities ("Bei der Ermittlung der vorrangig in Anspruch zu nehmenden Beteiligten hat der Rechtsinhaber in zumutbarem Umfang - etwa durch Beauftragung einer Detektei, eines Unternehmens, das Ermittlungen im Zusammenhang mit rechtswidrigen Angeboten im Internet durchführt, oder Einschaltung der staatlichen Ermittlungsbehörden - Nachforschungen vorzunehmen."). Since this effort could not have been shown in these cases, the Court eventually rejected the injunction.
  • Fourth, unlike the Dutch court(s), BGH seems to fully follow the CJEU on the low requirement for the effectiveness of the website blocking measures.
Above all, I am really curious how the Court will make this operational in the German context where claims for injunctions have their consequences even prior to a court decision, so the obligation of the access provider to block would be usually created prior to an order (upon a cease and desist letter). If this would be the case, huge potential issues with the freedom of expression of the users and website owners lie ahead. Stay tuned!

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