ECJ: victims of infringements of personality rights by means of the internet may bring actions before the courts of the Member State in which they reside in respect of all of the damage caused

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In its judgment delivered today, the Court holds that the placing online of content on an internet website is to be distinguished from the regional distribution of printed matter by reason of the fact that it can be consulted instantly by an indefinite number of internet users world-wide.

Thus, universal distribution, firstly, is liable to increase the seriousness of the infringements of personality rights and, secondly, makes it extremely difficult to locate the places in which the damage resulting from those infringements has occurred. In those circumstances, – given that the impact which material placed online is liable to have on an individual’s personality rights might best be assessed by the court of the place where the victim has his centre of interests -, the Court of Justice designates that court as having jurisdiction in respect of all damage caused within the territory of the European Union. In that context, the Court states that the place where a person has the centre of his interests corresponds in general to his habitual residence.

The Court points out, however, that, in place of an action for liability in respect of all of the damage, the victim may always bring an action before the courts of each Member State in the territory of which the online content is or has been accessible. In that case, in the same way as damage caused by printed matter, those courts have jurisdiction to deal with cases only in relation to damage which occurred within the territory of the State in which they are situated. Similarly, the person whose rights have been infringed may also bring an action, in respect of all of the damage caused, before the courts of the Member State in which the publisher of the online content is established.

Finally, in interpreting the e-commerce directive, 2 the Court rules that the principle of the freedom to provide services precludes, in principle, the provider of an electronic commerce service from being made subject, in the host Member State, to stricter requirements than those provided for by the law of the Member State in which that service provider is established. Here to read more.

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