I mentioned the German 'Impressum' again very recently. Now the German American Law Journal has taken up the topic, under the heading 'Silly German law with extraterritorial effect'.
They mention the problem that some German lawyers have made a point of suing people who don't observe the (letter of the) law. It's only websites with a commercial purpose that need to give this information, and some courts have defined as commercial any website that displays advertising banners. One court condoned the pursuit of a cease and desist order when the 'Impressum' needed more than two mouseclicks to reach. (Indeed, when I started this blog, I was recommended to give a direct link to the 'Impressum' on the blog, even though I had a link to the website and that had a link to the 'Impressum' on it).
Of course, if this is a 'silly law', it isn't a silly German law, but silly EU law. I wonder how keenly it is enforced in England. The German American law blog mentions a case where a Welsh company that operated in Germany was required to display its foreign corporate data. (Well, it's described as a Welsh company, but of course all English and Welsh companies are registered in Cardiff). Now strictly speaking, that data should be there already, albeit in English. OK, maybe when the proceedings were instituted the Directive had not yet been transposed into English law, but the Directive must have applied in England and Wales. Here's the Heise report and here is the case report (both in German).
It does appear that this was a company run by Germans who chose to incorporate as an English limited company to save costs.
Incidentally, the German American Law Journal refers to the 'Impressum' as 'compliant statement', which is useful (but perhaps would not be understood by everyone).
An earlier entry in the German American Law Journal discusses German cease-and-desist-order practices.
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