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ISP Liability through
“Interference” in Germany –
an overview
Birgit Clark, IPKat event
1 April 2014, Bristows LLP
Störerhaftung – a unique beast!
• Issue of correct translation into English: interferer or
disturber? Even defining the te...
Liability through ‘Interference’?
• Störerhaftung is a long established German legal
concept, not limited to copyright, tr...
European Law on indirect IPR liability
• European law on indirect liability for IPR infringement
“fluffy”.
• Enforcement ...
European Law on indirect IPR liability
• Resulting obligation for Member States unclear: Recital 59
Information Society Di...
Privileges in E-Commerce Directive
• Articles 12 - 15 E-Commerce Directive privilege different
kinds of ISPs:
– Access and...
Privileges in E-Commerce Directive
• Upon knowledge/awareness of an infringement, ISP
must act expeditiously to remove or ...
Limitations to ISP liability
• BGH bases its concept of ISP liability as ‘interferers’
(limited to injunctive relief) upon...
Limitations to ISP liability
• CJEU appears to tend towards an interpretation which
limits liability limitations to cases ...
Limitations to ISP liability
• Before looking at liability limitations, one needs to
determine the existence and condition...
German Approach
German case law on
contributory liability for the
infringement of IPRs is divided,
even within BGH itself:...
German Approach
• Concept of Störerhaftung applied in cases of contributory
liability of ISPs for copyright and trade mark...
German Approach: interferer liability
• BGH: any person who has intentionally made a causal
contribution to the direct inf...
German Approach: interferer liability
• BGH’s interpretation of the E-Commerce Directive based
upon wording and systematic...
German Approach: interferer liability
• Liability under the head of Störerhaftung is limited to
injunctive relief, includi...
Issue of ‘reasonable measures’
• The extent of ‘reasonable measures’ (aka ‘audit duties’)
in the centre of debate about IS...
Issue of ‘reasonable measures’
• OLG Cologne (6 U 86/07 of 21 September 2007): not
reasonable to require the use of file n...
Issue of ‘reasonable measures’
• OLG Duesseldorf (5 U 73/07 of 27 April 2010): duty to
delete infringing copies/files but ...
BGH on ‘reasonable measures’
• Two BGH decisions clarified standard of reasonableness
by strengthening preventative, speci...
BGH on ‘reasonable measures’
• Notice and takedown: duty to delete any files that are
reported to be illegal copies of cop...
BGH on ‘reasonable measures’
• Determined by taking into account all the facts of the
case, including, role and function o...
BGH on Reasonable Measures
• In light of Article 15 E-Commerce Directive BGH stresses that
even with regard to injunctions...
Issue: what if an ISP is not neutral
Kinderhochstühle im Internet II (BGH, I ZR 216/11 of 16
May 2013):
• Internet auction...
Issue: what if an ISP is not neutral
• Liability privilege (Articles 7, 10 TMG) does not apply.
• Due to its promotion of ...
Need for “tortious action”?
• Störerhaftung limited to injunctive relief.
• Scholars argue it should be developed into a t...
Need for “tortious action”?
• In Halsband (BGH, GRUR 2009, 597) based contributory
liability of an eBay-account holder for...
Need for a “tortious action”?
• In Sommer unseres Lebens, BGH refused to hold the
operator of an insecure internet access ...
Need for “tortious action”?
• In BearShare (I ZR 169/12 of 8 January 2014) BGH held that
the owner of an internet connecti...
Contributory liability in Patent Law
• In patent law, BGH assumes that a knowing
contribution combined with a violation of...
Short Definition of Störerhaftung
“Issuing an injunction against hosting providers in Internet law is
based on the German ...
ISP Liability through
“Interference” in Germany –
an overview
Birgit Clark, IPKat event
1 April 2014, Bristows LLP
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Birgit Clark - ISP Liability through Interference in Germany

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Birgit Clark - ISP Liability through Interference in Germany

  1. 1. ISP Liability through “Interference” in Germany – an overview Birgit Clark, IPKat event 1 April 2014, Bristows LLP
  2. 2. Störerhaftung – a unique beast! • Issue of correct translation into English: interferer or disturber? Even defining the term in German is far from straightforward. • General civil law (Sachenrecht), Articles 823, 1004 German Civil Code. • Administrative and Police law (Gefahrenabwehr) • Copyright law, see e.g. Article 19a, 69a, 97 German Copyright Act. • Internet law, in particular ISP liability • Different types of interferer: Handlungs-, Zustandsstörer.
  3. 3. Liability through ‘Interference’? • Störerhaftung is a long established German legal concept, not limited to copyright, trade mark or even IP law. • A Störer literally translated is an interferer or disturber. • Usually, direct liability for copyright infringement requires an infringement (e.g. an unlicensed distribution, or at least willing and knowing participation in an unlicensed distribution) of copyright protected works. • An interferer, however, is someone who, without being a perpetrator or participant, contributes willfully to an infringement of absolute rights in a sufficiently causal manner.
  4. 4. European Law on indirect IPR liability • European law on indirect liability for IPR infringement “fluffy”. • Enforcement Directive 2004/48 (Articles 9, 11) and Information Society Directive 2001/29 (Article 8(3)) oblige Member States to provide for claims against indirect infringers. • Provisions on the protection of technological protection measures (TPMs) and digital rights management information (DRM) in the Information Society Directive (and other copyright Directives) regulate specific cases of indirect liability. • By contrast: Articles 12 - 15 E-Commerce Directive 2000/31 contain limitations on ISP liability  equivalent provisions in German Telemediengesetz (TMG).
  5. 5. European Law on indirect IPR liability • Resulting obligation for Member States unclear: Recital 59 Information Society Directive (copyright and related rights) and Recital 23 Enforcement Directive leave procedures and conditions of injunctions as well whether other remedies should be provided to national law. • How damages can be directed against indirect infringers not regulated by European law. • Term ‘intermediary’ not defined in the relevant Directives. • Level required to achieve minimum harmonisation unclear. • Interplay between rules on the liability of intermediaries in Enforcement and Information Society Directives and ’safe harbour’ rules in Articles 12 - 15 E-Commerce Directive for ISPs are unclear.
  6. 6. Privileges in E-Commerce Directive • Articles 12 - 15 E-Commerce Directive privilege different kinds of ISPs: – Access and transmission providers (Article 12), – Caching providers (Article 13), – Host providers (Article 14). • No host liability where ISP has no actual knowledge of the infringement and no awareness of any facts from which infringement is apparent. • Provisions are mirrored in German Telemediengesetz.
  7. 7. Privileges in E-Commerce Directive • Upon knowledge/awareness of an infringement, ISP must act expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the infringing information. • Privileges not meant to prevent national authorities or courts to prevent/stop infringement based on national laws. • General principle in Article 15 E-Commerce Directive means that Member States must not impose any general obligation on ISPs to monitor stored or transmitted information.
  8. 8. Limitations to ISP liability • BGH bases its concept of ISP liability as ‘interferers’ (limited to injunctive relief) upon a restrictive interpretation of the liability privileges of the E- Commerce Directive, i.e. as not fully covering injunctive relief. • BGH developed its own criteria concerning the scope of an ISPs obligation to prevent future comparable infringements. • Seen as acte claire, never referred to CJEU. • CJEU has, however, developed an arguably similar approach in its case law, inlcuding in L’Oréal v eBay, Google France, SABAM, Scarlet and UPC Telekabel Wien.
  9. 9. Limitations to ISP liability • CJEU appears to tend towards an interpretation which limits liability limitations to cases where the host provider’s service is genuinely neutral. • Article 15 E-Commerce Directive: only genuinely ‘neutral’ service providers should benefit from the privileges. • Recital 42 E-Commerce Directive: provider’s activity must be of a “mere technical, automatic and passive nature”. • Neutral  host provider’s service has to be independent from the contents of the hosted/carried information without any direct (e.g. financial) interest of the provider regarding the specific contents of that information.
  10. 10. Limitations to ISP liability • Before looking at liability limitations, one needs to determine the existence and conditions of the contributory liability of ISPs for primary infringements by their users • This is done under national law, which is only partly harmonised (see Article 11 Enforcement Directive and Article 8(3) Information Society Directive). • In Germany this is where we encounter the so-called ‘interferer liability’ for copyrights and trade marks.
  11. 11. German Approach German case law on contributory liability for the infringement of IPRs is divided, even within BGH itself: For copyright and trade mark law, the BGH’s 1st Civil Senate BGH bases liability of mere contributors on interferer liability (Störerhaftung). For patent law, the BGH’s 10th Civil Senate applies a concept of contributory tortious liability, which regards contributory acts as independent tortious patent infringements.
  12. 12. German Approach • Concept of Störerhaftung applied in cases of contributory liability of ISPs for copyright and trade mark infringement of their users. • BGH landmark decisions in the ‘Internet Auction cases’ (BGH, GRUR 2004, 860 – Internetautkion I; BGH, GRUR 2007, 708 – Internetauktion II; BGH, GRUR 2008, 702 – Internetauktion III) • It was held that an internet platform provider is not tortiously liable as an infringer/perpetrator or participant in infringing acts of its users provided it had no actual and concrete knowledge of the infringement. • By way of background: tortious participation in an infringement would require the participant’s and principal’s intention.
  13. 13. German Approach: interferer liability • BGH: any person who has intentionally made a causal contribution to the direct infringement of an IPR by a third party can be held liable for injunctive relief as interferer. • Three requirements: 1. intentional adequate causal ('with sufficient causative effect‘) contribution to the infringing acts of any third party; 2. legal and factual possibility of preventing a resulting direct infringement; 3. a violation of a reasonable duty of care to prevent such an infringements.
  14. 14. German Approach: interferer liability • BGH’s interpretation of the E-Commerce Directive based upon wording and systematic context of Article 14(3) E-Commerce Directive. • BGH: Article 14(1) E-Commerce Directive privileges the host provider only in relation to claims for damages and criminal liability, but not in relation to injunctive relief. • Acte clair and BGH did not refer the issue to the CJEU.
  15. 15. German Approach: interferer liability • Liability under the head of Störerhaftung is limited to injunctive relief, including preventive injunctions. • Damages cannot be claimed. • Interferer's liability requires a breach of a reasonable duty of care”  injunctions may require interferer to take reasonable measures to prevent further comparable infringements in the future. • Measures depend on individual case but must not be so burdensome that they could harm ISP’s entire business model.
  16. 16. Issue of ‘reasonable measures’ • The extent of ‘reasonable measures’ (aka ‘audit duties’) in the centre of debate about ISP liability. • Only reasonable (‘proportionate’) and technically possible measures may be imposed to identify comparable infringements. • Contradictory court decisions over the years on what is a reasonable measure, example are the Rapidshare (a one-click hosting sites) cases. • Each Higher Regional Court had a different view, or so it seems…
  17. 17. Issue of ‘reasonable measures’ • OLG Cologne (6 U 86/07 of 21 September 2007): not reasonable to require the use of file name filters to detect specific copyright-protected works since they cannot differentiate between legal/illegal copies. • OLG Hamburg (5 U 73/07 of 2 July 2008): business model is not legitimate because it aims to facilitate the illegal use of copyright proetected material. Thus all necessary measures to detect and delete infringements are “reasonable”.
  18. 18. Issue of ‘reasonable measures’ • OLG Duesseldorf (5 U 73/07 of 27 April 2010): duty to delete infringing copies/files but Further monitoring of stored, uploaded or downloaded files is unreasonable. • OLG Hamburg (5 U 87/09 of 14 March 2012): increase of “cloud services” so business model now legitimate. However, it allows completely anonymous uploads with high risk of abuse. Still significant duty of care, albeit perhaps not as significant as found in 2009.
  19. 19. BGH on ‘reasonable measures’ • Two BGH decisions clarified standard of reasonableness by strengthening preventative, specific filtering duties: I ZR 18/11 of 12 July 2012, Alone in the Dark and I ZR 80/12, Rapidshare of 15 August 2013. • Duty to “take all technically and economically reasonable measures to prevent future uploads of files which have been reported to be illegally distributed through its service”. • No exhaustive checklists but a reasonable minimum standard. • Audit duties might go further if an ISP were to play an active role in terms of knowledge/control.
  20. 20. BGH on ‘reasonable measures’ • Notice and takedown: duty to delete any files that are reported to be illegal copies of copyrighted works. • File name filters: once notified of a copyright infringement, duty to use file name filters to prevent future uploads of the same/similar files as well as screening of already stored files; need for copyright protection outweighs the user interests in legal back-up copies. • Monitoring of link lists: duty to actively monitor online third-party link lists known for publishing links to infringing files stored on the hosting service's servers and to delete any infringing content advertised on such sites. Only a limited number (single-digits) of third-party link lists, as a more comprehensive monitoring obligation would be economically unreasonable.
  21. 21. BGH on ‘reasonable measures’ • Determined by taking into account all the facts of the case, including, role and function of the interferer, degree of causation (i.e. danger of direct infringement), possibility that the claimant might file an action against the direct infringers, etc. • For host providers such as internet platforms, there is no reasonable duty of comprehensive ex ante examination of any user infringing content. • As a rule, ISPs cannot be expected to screen and control any content before it is available on the internet. • Only applies ‘neutral’ ISPs.
  22. 22. BGH on Reasonable Measures • In light of Article 15 E-Commerce Directive BGH stresses that even with regard to injunctions, basic principle remained that no general obligation to monitor should be imposed upon ISPs. • In Jugendgefährdende Medien (I ZR 18/04 of 12 July 2007) BGH had already clarified the measures that can be imposed to prevent future comparable infringements: – limited to adequate and reasonable filtering activities in relation to offers by the same user in the same category or with regard to infringements with same main features found in the first infringing offer. – No obligation to prevent any future comparable infringement at any cost.
  23. 23. Issue: what if an ISP is not neutral Kinderhochstühle im Internet II (BGH, I ZR 216/11 of 16 May 2013): • Internet auction platform liable for copyright infringements of third parties if it itself actively promotes the infringing offers by its own marketing campaign (i.e. not neutral). • Third party seller offered copyright infinging chairs on internet aution platform. Auction house had already been notified through other sellers that the third party’s chairs were infringing when it started its online keyword campaign.
  24. 24. Issue: what if an ISP is not neutral • Liability privilege (Articles 7, 10 TMG) does not apply. • Due to its promotion of the chairs through its own keyword campaign, ISP was no longer neutral but took more active role. • Reasonable measure included duty to manually review every offer linked through the keyword campaign. • Automatic filter not sufficient due to evidence that intermediary knew of previous allegations of copyright infringement with respect to the same products and the same seller.
  25. 25. Need for “tortious action”? • Störerhaftung limited to injunctive relief. • Scholars argue it should be developed into a tortious action of contributory liability since indirect liability based on a violation of a reasonable duty of care is also an established element of contributory tortious liability in general civil law (Haftung wg. Verkehrspflichtverletzung). • Could cover claims for damages. • Indeed BGH has in the past (Jugendgefährdende Medien) based liability of an internet auction house for prospective acts of unfair competition by its commercial users on violation of an independent, tortious duty of care to prevent 3rd party acts of unfair competition.
  26. 26. Need for “tortious action”? • In Halsband (BGH, GRUR 2009, 597) based contributory liability of an eBay-account holder for trade mark infringements, committed by using his account data, on tortious liability due to a violation of a duty of care by account holder to effectively control access to his confidential account data. • BGH subsequently in Sommer unseres Lebens (BGH, I ZR 121/08 of 12 May 2010) emphasised that new concept of tortious contributory liability was limited to unfair competition law, specifically to the issue of account liability. • BGH expressly clarified that the findings in Jugendgefährdende Medien did not apply to trade mark and copyright law.
  27. 27. Need for a “tortious action”? • In Sommer unseres Lebens, BGH refused to hold the operator of an insecure internet access that had been used by a third party for copyright infringement liable as an (additional) tortfeasor. • Operator had not complied with his reasonable duty of care to secure his WLAN access, but did not fall under specific requirements for infringement under Article 19a (‘making available right’) German Copyright Act. • BGH: insecure WLAN cannot be equated with the specific act of making a copyrighted work available to the public.
  28. 28. Need for “tortious action”? • In BearShare (I ZR 169/12 of 8 January 2014) BGH held that the owner of an internet connection was not liable – not even as interferer - for copyright infringing ‘file sharing’ committed by a grown up family member, provided there had been no previous indications of such behaviour. • BGH (1st Civil Senate) very clearly has no plans to change Störerhaftung into a concept of tortious liability for any willful, negligent general contribution to copyright or trade mark infringing acts by third parties   • BGH (10th Civil Senate) for patent law, however, assumes an independent head of tortious ISP liability for indirect infringement through wilful, negligent causation.
  29. 29. Contributory liability in Patent Law • In patent law, BGH assumes that a knowing contribution combined with a violation of a reasonable duty of care (= negligence) can already trigger indirect tortious ISP liability; (see for example: BGH, GRUR 1999, 977 - Räumschild; BGH, GRUR 2002, 599 – Funkuhr; BGH, GRUR 2007, 313 – Funkuhr II: BGH, GRUR 2009, 1142 – MP3 Player Import) • Legal consequences include damages and are more far- reaching than interferer liability. • No general rule of contributory liability for the different kinds of IP in Germany.
  30. 30. Short Definition of Störerhaftung “Issuing an injunction against hosting providers in Internet law is based on the German principle of Störerhaftung which can be translated as the liability of a “disturber” or “interferer”. It is important to note that interferer liability is a long-standing principle which has existed for many years and is now being applied to Internet law. This principle protects absolute rights pursuant to secs 823, 1004 of the German Civil Code. It means that anyone who somehow contributes deliberately and adequately causal to the infringement of a protected right can be subject to an injunction, without being the perpetrator or an accessory. Trade marks are such protected absolute rights. Injunctions can be issued regardless of negligence or fault. However, this action does not result in monetary compensation for the trade mark owner. (Arnold, in: L'Oreal v Ebay; [2009] EWHC 1094 (Ch))
  31. 31. ISP Liability through “Interference” in Germany – an overview Birgit Clark, IPKat event 1 April 2014, Bristows LLP

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