Website Owner's Characteristics on the Internet
Since 2007, owners of websites have to provide an imprint – aka as legal note. It is all about identifying the business using a website. The requirement of an imprint are laid down in §6 TMG and §55 RStV.
What is an imprint? What function does such a legal notice have?
An imprint contains a summonable address of the owner of a website, so that the owner can be easily identified. The idea behind this is to enable legal claims against him in court – if ever needed. The obligation comes from § 5 TMG.
Can we be fined for violations of the imprint obligation?
In recent years, thousands of warnings have been issued for violations of the imprint obligation. However, the case law is not uniform. In some cases, the courts take the view that a missing or incomplete imprint constitutes a legal violation, such as the Düsseldorf Regional Court or the Higher Regional Court of Hamm. Other courts differentiate here and assume that certain violations of the imprint regulations are not subject to a warning, for example the Hanseatic OLG and also the OLG Koblenz. Due to the inconsistent case law, every website operator should think about whether they need an imprint and what information must be included.
Who needs an imprint?
According to § 5 of the German Telemedia Act, an imprint is required for all "business-like online services". The imprint requirement therefore depends on whether the content, goods or services on the website are usually offered for a fee. This therefore applies first and foremost to all site operators who offer goods (e.g. online stores) or services (web hosters, software rental, etc.). They have an imprint obligation.
You will often see §55 Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (RStV) cited. The regulation is especially for content publishers. According to this, an imprint is required for anyone who (regularly) publishes journalistic and editorial content online that can contribute to opinion making. What this means in practice, however, is difficult to say. Are bloggers, for example, providers of regular journalistic content? If so, does an imprint obligation under TMG apply to all bloggers or only to such with "valuable" content? And who judges whether content on the Internet is irrelevant or whether the borderline to journalistically "valuable" content has been reached and therefore the imprint obligation applies? All these questions are currently not or not conclusively clarified by the courts.
Which mandatory information belongs in an imprint?
Absolutely mandatory information is site operator/responsible person. This person has to be referred to by
- first and last name,
- physical address,
- contact details,
- telephone number,
- fax number (if applicable, i.e. existent).
The following additional information, is required for companies:
- the legal form (GmbH, GbR, UG, ...),
- legal representative the company (typically the director and / or proxy director),
- where registered and company's registration number,
- when existent VAT ID,
- when applicable other special mandatory information (e.g. arbitrary dispute regulations).
In addition to these basics, there are countless other mandatory details that apply to specific areas or activities:
- Profession-specific information for lawyers, tax consultants, etc.
- Details of liability insurance or professional standards
- Information and link to the supervisory authority
- A link to the EU dispute resolution platform
- etc. etc.
Where must the imprint be integrated on the website?
The law states that the information must be "easily recognizable, immediately accessible, and constantly available". To be on the safe side, the information should therefore be included on a special page, and in a separate menu item in the navigation, which can be reached from every subpage. The menu item should be named "Imprint" or "Legal Notice" or "Legal Information".
The imprint information should not appear in a pop-up window! This function is suppressed by many users. This would have the consequence that the information cannot be viewed and is therefore considered to be non-existent. This "non-existence" can be fined with up to 50 k€.
Also make sure that cookie consent banners do not obscure the "Imprint" menu item and that the imprint is also visible in the mobile view of the website.
When you take out our incorporation services, please chose this optional service then. We will automatically take care of this assignment once we have all relevant information. If you connect with us later, we will provide you with a checklist. The fees for this service during the incorporation process will be € 30 ex VAT and € 60 ex VAT when subsequently hiring us. In the latter case, please fill out the below contact form to hire us.