CK - Washington. On May 13, 2014, the European Court of Justice invented an obligation to drop old newspaper announcements of legal actions from search engines under Article 4(1)(c) of European Union Directive 95/46, when it ruled on Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez in favor of a data protection agency and a Spanish defendant who did not want the public to discover a 1998 notice of attachment on his property through the plaintiffs' search engine.
Among German lawyers and law commentators, a heated discussion followed quickly. Some argue that the decision serves privacy interests. Others believe that the court elevated data protection from a run-of-the-mill statute to a European constitutional principle that conflicts with the German and possibly other constitutions.
The court ruled, among other things, on the right of erasure and determined its applicability to search engines. The storage of data by search engines is data processing under Article 2, it ruled. Jurisdictionally, data processing occurs in the E.U. member state where the plaintiff maintains a branch or subsidiary even if such entity is limited to promotion and advertising services.
Even when the original publication was and remains lawful and available, a right of erasure can apply to a search engine while the linked-to publication may remain unerased. Unless public interests outweigh the defendant's interest in privacy and dignity, Articles 7 and 8 of the E.U. Charter may entitle him to seek erasure from the plaintiffs regardless of economic burdens imposed on them. The case is returned to the Spanish court to apply these principles to the facts.
PS - Washington. Recently, the publishers of the annual handbook JUVE's German Commercial Law Firms introduced their 15th edition of the only book of its kind in English which focuses exclusively on German lawyers.
The new edition lists close to 600 German commercial law firms. The catalogue is arranged by states, largest cities, international law firms, and practice areas. The law firms are chosen by a group of journalists who perform research on such firms. The handbook is useful for foreign lawyers seeking referral firms or cooperation partners. The printable version of the book is available for 59 Euros.
A very practical handbook introduces readers to the legal market and practice of law in Germany: The Legal Market in Germany: A 360 Degree Perspective by Markus Hartung and Thomas Wegerich. German Law Publishers focuses on high quality summaries of the key topics of German company, corporate, tax and labor law as well as other legal business law topics. The hardbound book costs 98 Euros.
CK - Washington. With statutory amendments to the aviation act in 2012 and regulatory implementations in 2013, Germany is somewhat ahead of the United States in establishing a legal framework for the civilian and commercial use of drones.
The regulations revised after the amendment to the federal aviation statute classify drones up to a weight of 25 kilograms in section 6(2) as aerial vehicles partially exempt from the demanding standard approval process for aircraft. Section 34 addresses the licensing of drone operators by applying a minimal standard, such as qualifications obtained in a club setting. Section 66 transfers authority for permitting of non-commercial operations to the states, i.e. Länder. Chapter 10 of the regulations addresses the import or transfer of unmanned aerial vehicles, among other aircraft, into German airspace or territory. Section 99 governs the insurance requirements for foreign aircraft and may affect also drones brought into Germany. Section VI (3) of Schedule 1 to the regulations, Luftverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung, contains a rule for the permanent marking of the drone with owner information.
Another overview, in German, of permits, licenses, distances, required insurance coverage and many more practical and legal details, is found in Solmecke, Die rechtlichen Probleme des Einsatzes von zivilen Drohnen--i.e. Legal Issues in the Use of Civilian Drones. The broad overview also covers privacy, copyright, criminal sanctions and data protection laws as they relate to the deployment of civilian drones in Germany.
FW - Washington. On October 9, 2013, a new Improper Business Practices Act called Gesetz über unseriöse Geschäftspraktiken entered into force.
The statute targets cease-and-desist letters concerning copyrights which in Germany normally trigger high legal fees charged to infringing consumers. Now these violation fees will be limited to less than 200 euros if the consumer infringes for the first time. Cease-and-desist letters must specify the owner of copyrights allegedly infringed.
The new statute also protects consumers from billing practices found in the fields of internet and telephone gaming. Some vendors call consumers with an offer to participate in a game of chance and subsequently charges them unexpected fees. In addition the act requires more transparency in collection matters. Among other changes to current law, collection letters must disclose the creditor for whom the collection effort is made.
DJ - Washington. On September 3, 2012, the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled against the relatives of civilian victims of a NATO airstrike. The court affirmed two rulings that dismissed the actions for compensation against the Federal Republic of Germany.
The court, Bundesverfassungsgericht, stated in the matter 2 BvR 2660/06 - 2 BvR 487/07 that private individuals asserting damages resulting from violations of international humanitarian law do not have an individual claim for compensation under international law. In addition, the court rejected liability claims for improper acts of public authorities.
CK - Washington. Hard Rock Cafe Heidelberg is not a licensee or franchisee of the renowned Hard Rock Cafe group and existed as a look-a-like of the London outfit for a few years before the group entered Germany with restaurants in Berlin and elsewhere. The group sued the Heidelbergensis tribe for trademark infringement and unfair trade violations.
Applying principles of laches and equitable estoppel, the German supreme court in civil matters, Bundesgerichtshof, in Karlsruhe decided on August 15, 2013 that the Heidelberg outfit may remain open under its trade name but may no longer use confusing logos or sell confusing merchandise. Each violation of the law begins anew with each sale, so that neither of the above principles would apply to the merchandising.
The court remanded the case in part so that the lower courts could ascertain and assess additional facts that relate to damages and ancillary claims. The court published a summary, in German, on its website, and it will publish the decision in the matter I ZR 188/11 - Hard Rock Cafe soon.
CK - Washington. Germany implements a European Union directive on consumer protection by requiring internet vendors to list on websites detailed identifying information, including corporate IDs, tax IDs and managerial appointments. The identification is commonly called an Impressum and frequently translated into English as Imprint. The implementing statute exempts vendors from outside of the E.U.
A June 18, 2013 decision from the Düsseldorf Court of Appeals in the matter I-20 U 145/12 extends the reach of the statute, however, to such vendors which trade within the E.U. and, in a more novel approach, renders the third-party internet platform on which the vendor trades to sanctions for failing to provide technical means for the creation of an Impressum.
Some German observers believe that the decision will force platforms such as a Facebook, Twitter and Google to offer templates that enable vendors to comply with the E.U. and German rules. Courts have been expanding the reach of the obligations arising from the TMG statute since its enactment. While violating constitutional free speech protections, the statute now appears to cover not just vendors of goods and services but, in the eyes of most lower courts, almost any periodically repeating internet actors, including bloggers.
TAS - Washington. A new bill extending publishers' copyrights passed the Bundesrat, the upper legislative body in Germany, on March 22, 2013. When it becomes effective, search engines and news aggregators may use coyright protected content only to a small, vagely defined extent.
The essay Leistungsschutzrecht for German Print Media -- An Ancillary Copyright Protection by Felix Gebhard examines the new bill. The author describes its background, developments and future impact on business for the English-speaking reader.
FG - Washington. Arbitration has gained significance within the United States and internationally. This form of alternative dispute resolution without public hearing and jury but before expert panels provides numerous advantages, especially in the field of business law and international law.
As a German law student intern in Washington, D.C., Tobias Schäfer has analyzed in his essay Varianten der Arbitration in den USA the various forms of arbitration in American law. His overview can serve as a useful reference for American lawyers wishing to suggest a German-language briefing to their foreign colleagues.
TAS - Washington. The federal constitutional court in Germany, Bundesverfassungsgericht, in Karlsruhe had to decide whether §257c of the Code of Criminal Procedure regulating plea agreements since 2009, would violate constitutional due process as well as the presumption of innocence and other principles.
In its March 19, 2013 decision, docket number BvR 2628/10, the court blessed §257c. Although the application of the statute by courts lacks constitutional guidance, the law itself is constitutional, because it preserves the constitutional rights to an acceptable extent.
All informal plea bargains which do not strictly follow this provision, however, are unconstitutional. In the three cases examined by the court, it identified violations of plea bargaining procedures, such as the right to a fair trial, and reversed the judgments.