MJ - Washington. On August 23, 2014, a new statute, Gesetz zur Bekämpfung von Zahlungsverzug im Geschäftsverkehr und zur Änderung des Erneuerbare-Energien Gesetzes, an Act to Combat Tardiness in Business Payments and to Change the Renewable Energies, became effective.
The objective of the statute is to solve the problem of late payments between business parties and between businesses and public agencies. The federal legislator added a new section, sect; 271a, to the Civil Code, Bügerliches Gesetzbuch of 1900. The provision has a binding effect only on transactions subject to German law. Companies with a payment obligation must pay within 60 days after receiving the promised consideration. When a party is a public entity, payment must be completed within 30 days.
With the new section, the law intends to protect mid-size companies: When they perform their obligation, they should be paid promptly, thus receiving protection against liquidity squeezes. General terms and conditions may not supersede this section. A contractual agreement providing for a longer period is effective only if the agreement is made expressly and does not unfairly disadvantage the beneficiary. This new statute will apply to new contractual obligations. Contracts existing on August 23, 2014 will not be affected unless performances thereunder become due after that date.
Education is one of those topics politicians love to talk about. Talk is cheap, though. as Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, former Maltese President and Minister of Education, explains in his latest book An Introduction to the Law of Education. Compellingly, he calls for a debate on the legal framework and conditions of the law of education. Every politician championing education should heed his counsel: One cannot do the right thing if one does not know what the right thing is, and one comes to know what is right through being informed. p. 5.
While the author's main focus is on his home country of Malta, the international reader will find plenty of inspiring insights. Law and education met very late in the development of many societies. However, the law of education has many roots and common denominators throughout the world. By an intelligent mixture of history and philosophy, the author develops the influences of state, church and parents on education. He also presents the overarching role of language as a medium for education and sheds light on teachers' positions in the education system.
While citing Aristotle and Kant, the author refers to constitutions and court decisions from different countries, amongs those Germany and the United States of America, as well as to decisions of international courts and tribunals. He shows where historical differences occurred that are still present in current legislation and where international pacts and agreements, beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, aim at constituting common standards.
The book's regional focus is on Europe, especially the Council of Europe, on whose Venice Commission on Democracy through Law the author served as of 2002. In addition, the author references U.S. history and Supreme Court decisions to contrast legislation or emphasize common principles. We learn how the Prussian educational system served as a role model for the American public school system in the 19th century. Amongst others, the book also points to European legislation that mirrors Supreme Court decisions on minority languages in education, how academic freedom is viewed from slightly different angles on both sides of the Atlantic and how corporal punishment of children is not legally banned in all U.S. states while the European Court of Human Rights in numerous rulings declared it a violation of children's rights.
Based on his lifetime experience, the author closes with a passionate plea for a profound legal education in national, European and internationl law for every citizen as a keystone for democracy.
Without a doubt, this book is a must for teachers, politicians and lawyers in the field of education. What it is most certainly not is a barren stock-taking and analysis. En passant, the reader is taken on a journey through Maltese and European history and meets the grand thinkers and statesmen of their time. A captivating book I highly recommend.
An Introduction to the Law of Education
Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici
400 pages - 25.00 Euros
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.