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German Supreme Court Rules On Deep Linking

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

31 July 2003


The German Federal Supreme Court earlier this month ruled in favour of the Paperboy news search engine, arguing that the service does not violate the country's copyright and competition laws by 'deep-linking' to news content on other sites.

Paperboy had been accused by Holtzbrinck, the publisher of financial newspaper Handelsblatt, of infringing its copyright, and depriving the business news service of revenue by bypassing its advertisement-heavy home page, and linking straight to particular stories.

A lower court found in Holtzbrinck's favour, but the decision was later overturned by an appeals court, with the Supreme Court also finding in Paperboy's favour.

'A sensible use of the immense wealth of information offered by the world wide web is practically impossible without drawing on the search engines and their hyperlink services (especially deep links),' the Supreme Court ruled, going on to add that it is the responsibility of the plaintiffs to prevent such news search services from deep linking to them via technical measures, if they feel that it represents a violation of their rights.

Although this represents a victory for German search engines, deep linking rulings elsewhere in Europe, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, are likely to present problems for such firms there. Observers have also suggested that, in view of planned EU-wide changes to copyright laws, the deep-linking arguement could be resurrected again in Germany at a later date.


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