The current Corona crisis means that news about judgments and other developments in IT law are also becoming scarcer. Every now and then, however, there are already new decisions.

Thus, the Saarlouis Local Court ruled in a judgment dated 01.04.2020 (Ref.: 25 C 1233/19 (12)) that an operator of a forum cannot terminate a user simply like that, without any particular reason, and thus prohibit access.

The plaintiff had registered on ww.gvmp.de, a community around GTA 5, in 2017 and subsequently used the account. The activation of the user account or account by the defendant pursuant to § 145 et seq. BGB (German Civil Code), a contract of use has come into existence between the parties.

The defendant disputed that the plaintiff was actually entitled to the account; only the date of birth and the e-mail address were known to him, not the associated name or other data. However, the plaintiff submitted a screenshot of the user profile for the file, which he could only make after entering the access data.

The defendant “terminated” the account in 2018. However, this was not effective, because the defendant, as the operator of the community, did not have the right to terminate the continuing obligation between the parties pursuant to Section 314 (1) of the German Civil Code. 1 BGB (German Civil Code).

Contrary to the view taken by the defendant, the latter was not entitled to exclude individual users from its Internet platform at will.

According to the ruling, this also applies, or even more so, due to the terms of use “we also reserve the right to block and remove users from our platform without giving reasons” .

This condition is illegal because it is an unconditional blocking of a user account, which is not possible in this way. This follows directly from § 307 para. 1 sentence 1 BGB.

The court compares the forum to a building into which the owner unconditionally lets everyone in. In this case, too, special reasons are needed to exclude individuals.

The situation is no different here: the defendant directs its offer to use its Internet platform free of charge to all visitors to the Internet. There are no special access controls, apart from the registration for the platform by entering a password, which, as the defendant himself has stated, does not even require a clear name, but only the date of birth and e-mail address.

Therefore, the concluded contract includes protective obligations of the operator, § 241 para. 2 BGB. Within the scope of these duties to protect, the fundamental rights of the data subject must be taken into account by way of indirect third-party effect, which means in particular that the user may in principle carry out permissible actions on the platform without fear of being blocked. The prerequisite for a block is therefore that the exclusion is objectively justified and not arbitrary. This was already the case at the Frankfurt Regional Court.

The ruling shows that even supposedly harmless gaming forums are not a legal vacuum and that well thought-out or reviewed terms of use can be useful.

 

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