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The judgement of the German Supreme Court of 17th July 2003 (File Number I ZR 259/00) – “Paperboy” (on admissibility of deep linking)

In its ruling of 17th July 2003, the German Supreme Court held that web pages containing publicly accessible news articles may be linked directly (so-called "deep linking" or "web-clipping") while bypassing the entry pages of content providers.

The plaintiff, a media group that publishes several newspapers and magazines sued the search engine provider "" for forbearance. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s use of deep links violated the plaintiff's copyright and database rights, as well as the Unfair Competition Act. According to the plaintiff, the defendant's search engine violated the Unfair Competition Act because it enabled internet users to bypass the plaintiff’s home page, and thus bypass the advertisements placed on the home page. The court held that the plaintiff’s copyright and database rights were not violated since the plaintiff and owner of the copyright had consented to such use by putting the articles online and thus making them publicly accessible. Every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by finding out the URL. The court held that the use of hyperlinks eliminates the need to enter the URL manually, thus making access to the internet more convenient.

Furthermore, the court held that the defendant had not violated the Unfair Competition Act since he did not take any steps attempting at concealing the plaintiff’s identity as the source of the articles. Although the plaintiff could incur damages due to fewer hits on advertisement banners on his website, he cannot demand such detours. The functionality of search engines is one of the limitations of the internet which has to be accepted, the court held.


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