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Information Obligations in the German Law of Telemedia and User-Generated Content

Information Obligations in the German Law of Telemedia and User-Generated Content

The phenomenon of user-generated content is challenging terms used in internet law that appeared clear and unambiguous. Traditional concepts like an “information and communication service” or to provide such services “businesslike” come under pressure due to the hybrid structure of user-generated content, which intermingles personal with public, private with commercial, journalism and self-portrayal.

By way of looking at the scope of application for information obligations in section 5 Telemedia Act (TMG) and section 55 Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (RStV), this PhD project examines resulting challenges for legal interpretation and application, and proposes possible solutions. One particular research focus lies within the systematic-teleological interpretation of the terms used in said provisions: “normally provided for remuneration”; “serving personal or domestic purposes”; or “journalistic-editorial”. Such terms may claim to be significant beyond the mere realm of information obligations or even information law.


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Project Description

The above-mentioned provisions are interpreted and subsumed against the background of an examination of constitutional law which looks at the human rights aspects of obligations to disclose the names and other personal data of users actively participating in the online communication process. The information obligations laid down in sections 5 TMG, 55 RStV serve the purpose of eliminating anonymity and pseudonymity, which are "natural” states of communication and publication online, and are basically protected by constitutional freedoms of communication, personality and privacy. By giving guidelines derived from constitutional law, the research conducted in this project provides a certain structure to a broadly discussed issue: Which type of communication might be deserving particular protection and at the same time should be subject to a particular level of regulation, and under which circumstances?

The doctoral thesis was submitted to the University of Hamburg in April 2012.

Project Information


Duration: 2006-2012

Involved persons

Stefan Heilmann, LL.B.

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Christiane Matzen, M. A.
Head of Science Communication

Christiane Matzen, M. A.

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 41

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