Imprint duty: is your private homepage legally really private??

The law stipulates that every website that is operated on a business basis must have an imprint. The situation is different if the website is used exclusively for private purposes. How this demarcation is to be carried out exactly you experience in this article.

© Daniel Jędzura –

Making a website available worldwide on the Internet entails many obligations for the operator. In Germany, this includes the obligation to provide an imprint, which is regulated by § 5 para. 1 of the German Telemedia Act (TMG) is regulated. The law stipulates that every website must have an imprint with a summonable postal address and contact data of the operator, provided that he operates his website on a business basis. What is considered "business-like" in the eyes of the legislator, however, is not clearly clarified in the TMG. In the following, you will learn what the imprint obligation is all about and whether your supposedly private website requires an imprint.

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1. What is an imprint and who needs it?

The term imprint originally comes from the newspaper and publishing industry. For example, every magazine has an imprint that gives the name of all editors, the address of the publisher and the person responsible in the sense of the press law. This type of responsibility also exists for a website; users of a website must be able to refer to a direct contact person as the operator of the site.

Especially for online stores and companies the imprint obligation in Germany is easy to understand. Anyone who buys a product over the Internet and has problems with delivery, the payment process& Co. should be able to turn legally to a direct contact person. It would be fatal to operate a store or business website absolutely anonymously. The consequence of the legal regulation are warnings because of a violation of the imprint obligation, which can be expensive for the site operator.

Unfortunately, the concern about a warning notice also applies to websites that have a half private and half business impression. The website operator often considers his site to be private, however, several characteristics may indicate a "business-like" character. Here it means to inform oneself in time and in case of doubt to create an imprint.

2. Does the imprint obligation also apply to private websites?

No, if you operate your website exclusively for private purposes, you do not have to comply with any legal formalities for the design of your imprint. § Section 5 of the German Telemedia Act (TMG) explicitly refers to "business-like online services" that require a mandatory imprint. However, only a few websites have a clearly private character. These primarily include blogs, in which you share your private experiences and thoughts with other users. Even websites about your favorite hobby or fan pages are often considered a purely private project. You quickly enter a gray area, however, for example if you actively promote the artist’s CDs or films or even participate in the sales proceeds (z.B. via a so-called. "Affiliate Program").

3. Features of private websites at a glance

The following checklist should help you decide whether your web presence has a more private or business character:

  • The website serves exclusively family or similarly private purposes. If you use your site exclusively for uploading your vacation photos or similarly private documents, there is no imprint obligation. However, this type of use has been fading into the background for years, as photos and other media are now increasingly shared via cloud services.
  • Your Internet presence has a clear and exclusively personal character. A typical case would be a blog that you use as an online diary and that is read by family or friends. More and more often, modern blogs do not meet this intent, partly due to links to products that are even paid by the manufacturer.
  • Your website is free of advertising. This is primarily about advertising that you actively place yourself, rather than ads that z. B. be included by the blog operator for the free use of the service. For the advertising character of the website it does not matter whether you receive money for advertising or refer to certain products or services out of personal preference. Here it is to be distinguished also whether contentwise individual articles are advertised or a simple linking to other web page takes place.

4. Characteristics of business websites at a glance

  • The web page pursues clearly a commercial interest. This applies to all online stores where goods are actively sold, as well as the websites of manufacturing companies and service providers. Internet pages of this kind fulfill the clear purpose to inspire the visitor for certain products or services and to invite actively to the purchase. The imprint obligation is given, with its introduction the § 5 TMG aimed explicitly at such Web offers.
  • Your website runs free or commercial advertising. Even if you are not an active retailer or provider of products and services yourself, they can be linked or promoted through your site. Even in this case you must be legally tangible for website visitors, for example because you have referred to illegal or criminal offers. Just this situation is often overlooked by private web page operators and leads to expensive warnings.
  • The website presents journalistic and editorial content. This case is not yet clearly clarified according to German case law, corresponding operators are nevertheless to be recommended an imprint. According to a strict interpretation, these are web pages whose content is intended to reach a wider audience. This limits the private character, because not only family or friends are allowed to view the content. Also to be questioned is the journalistic quality, as even a private blog operator can appear journalistic.

5. Conclusion

If you run a business-like website and do not create a formally correct imprint, you risk an expensive warning letter. While the situation is clear for corporate sites and online stores, if you are a private site owner, you should keep the above considerations in mind. To be on the safe side, it is advisable to create an imprint for websites that are not clearly private in any case. In addition to contents such as the complete postal address and contact data such as an e-mail address, the easy findability and the clear designation as an imprint is also important for the legislator. Our imprint generator helps you to create an imprint that complies with the legal regulations according to §5 TGM and gives your website legal security.

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