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German court claims jurisdiction in lawsuit against American author

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  1. Libel and Privacy
One of Germany's highest appellate courts this month ruled that the country’s courts have long-arm jurisdiction over an American author…

One of Germany’s highest appellate courts this month ruled that the country’s courts have long-arm jurisdiction over an American author and newspaper because the article was viewed on the Internet in Germany.

The case began nearly a decade ago when New York Times journalist Raymond Bonner wrote a 2001 article about American businessman Ronald Lauder that mentioned his television licensing negotiations in the Ukraine. The article quoted from European law enforcement reports that described one of Lauder’s business acquaintances, Boris Fuchsmann, as “a gold smuggler and embezzler, whose company in Germany was part of an international organized crime network.”

Fuchsmann sued the Times and Bonner in Germany, claiming the article had painted him in a false light. Two German courts rejected Fuchsmann’s contention he could sue the Times in Germany because its Web site could be accessed there, finding that the story appeared in the paper’s regional section and was not aimed at German readership.

The Federal Court of Justice of Germany in Karlsruhe disagreed and earlier this month reversed those decisions, basing its jurisdiction on the roughly 15,000 registered German users of the Times Web site. The case was remanded for court hearings on the merits of the case.