GRP Rainer LLP

The Scope of the Freedom of the Media Includes Online Encyclopaedias as Well

The State Court of Tubingen has ruled that an online encyclopaedia falls within the scope of the freedom of the media in case of publication of articles about individuals.


Cologne, NRW -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/11/2013 -- GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Bremen, Hanover, Nuremberg, Essen and London conclude: The State Court of Tubingen (case No. 7 O 525/10) has rejected by its new ruling the suit of an associate professor who demanded the court to have his personal data removed from an online encyclopaedia. The court justified its decision by the fact that although the publication of an article in the online encyclopaedia would indeed interfere with the professor’s privacy, it must nevertheless be subordinated to the fundamental right to freedom of the media upon its consideration among other basic rights.

The article has not resulted in the plaintiff’s social isolation or ostracism. In addition, it should be noted that an online encyclopaedia is a source of detailed information only when the user is explicitly looking for it. Thus the online encyclopaedia fulfils the public interest for a sufficient supply of information. For these reasons the court has rejected the plaintiff’s claim to remove his personal data from an online encyclopaedia.

In a similar case, in which a deceased lawyer's son claimed against an article about his father, the action should also have been dismissed by stressing the primacy of the freedom of the media. The article was claimed to contain incorrect information about the duration of his membership in the Nazi party. The dispute will be continued next year before the Supreme State Court in Bamberg.

The question of what personal rights of an individual may fall under the general right for privacy or even the copyright represents a complex issue.

The copyright law often involves the question of who is actually creator of the work. This is because in the copyright law, unlike the patent and trademark law, there is no public register allowing substantiating the authorship of a work. Therefore establishing the copyright always requires conscientious investigation and care.

You should consult in case of any doubt an attorney who can provide you comprehensive advice on individual cases.

GRP Rainer LLP is an international firm of lawyers and tax advisors who are specialists in commercial law. The firm counsels commercial and industrial companies and corporations, as well as associations, small- and mid-sized businesses, self-employed freelancers and private individuals worldwide from offices in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, and Stuttgart, Germany and London UK.
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