Marian Härtel
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Twitter account and responsibility

The Berlin Regional Court today ruled in the case of AfD politician Jens Maier and Boris Becker’s son, Noah Becker. Meier had referred to Becker last year, by means of a tweet, as a “little half-negro,” causing outrage.

Although criminal proceedings were dropped because an employee of the AfD politician jumped into the breach and, at least officially, stated that he had written the post, Noah Becker nevertheless instigated civil proceedings for damages because he considered the politician himself to be the person responsible for the Twitter account.

Today, the Berlin Regional Court, in the form of the 27th Press Chamber, granted the claim. Neither the amount of the pain and suffering award of 15,000 euros + interest and legal fees nor the facts of the case as such are particularly spectacular and actually only of interest to the tabloid press. For me as a lawyer with a focus on social media, it is rather interesting to have it confirmed that Jens Maier could not exculpate himself by saying that he did not write the tweet himself. This also has implications for potentially other infringements in the law of expression, possible copyright infringement in tweets, and other situations. Because unlike Facebook and the like, publishing on Twitter is even officially supported by Twitter. However, only the account owner, be it an individual, a company, a project or whatever, appears in public.

Therefore, in my opinion, the district court correctly decided that the person responsible for infringement can only be the one who appears in public. Possible actions by employees must then be clarified or compensated internally, provided that labor law or other regulations form a basis for this. The decision is likely to have an impact on other areas of law, on questions of service in the context of cease-and-desist letters and other problem areas. So far, I am not aware of any legal opinion or even a verdict. It is also possible, of course, that Mr. Maier will appeal the decision at the Kammergericht. In any case, this is an interesting topic, and companies that share accounts should take precautions to ensure that, on the one hand, no acts of infringement (be it copyright or personal rights) occur and that it is possible to trace who really wrote which tweet internally.

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Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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