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Domain Registrars Can Be Held Liable For Infringement, Court Finds

Posted by: , 18:07 AEDT, Sat February 8, 2014

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Domain registrars face new pressure to act as copyright cops for the entertainment industry, after German court sets new precedent in assigning liability to domain registrars
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Image/Photo Credit: Sam Howzit @ Flickr, CC

A German court has made a controversial ruling that makes domain registrars liable for the content of registered domains. 

The Regional Court of Saarbrücken made the ruling in a case involving torrent website H33T, who was sued by Rasch Legal, acting on behalf of Universal Music, for copyright offences. The court ruled that H33T's domain registrar, Key-Systems, could be made liable for the actions of H33T if they do not promptly deactivate H33T's domains when it is "obvious" that the website has engaged in copyright infringement.

Domain registrars track the ownership of domain names, much like how phone companies track the ownership of phone numbers. Any one domain registrar may have thousands of domains that have been registered with the company, and they have no access or the ability to track content being hosted on these domain names.

This latest ruling sets a new precedent and overturns previous rulings which found registrars not liable for acts carried out by third parties.

Germany's music industry trade group, the BVMI, welcomed the ruling.

"For rights holders this offers a new protection option to take action against portals with illegal offers on the net, that hide their identities using front companies registered abroad," said the BVMI's Dr. Florian Drücke.

Volker Greimann, lawyer for Key-Systems, said the ruling was dangerous and could dramatically affect the way domain registrars do business in Germany.

"This judgment makes no legal sense and is full of errors. If this judgment stands, it will have dire consequences for the kind of services German registrars can provide," Greimann told copyright news website TorrentFreak.


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