On 22 October 2011, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a judgment in which it clarifies which courts have jurisdiction in case of an infringement of personality rights on the Internet. The judgment is based on two individual cases (eDate Advertising GmbH vs. X and Olivier and Robert Martinez vs. MGN Limited).

In the case of eDate Advertising, an Austrian website owner, published an article on its website in which it reported on an alleged crime committed by Mr. X. Further thereto, Mr. X, who is a German citizen, requested eDate Advertising to remove the article concerned from its website. Since eDate Advertising refused to remove the article from its website, Mr. X initiated a claim before the German courts to have the article removed. In its defense, eDate Advertising stated that German courts do not have jurisdiction on this matter since the website is hosted in Austria. In light thereof, the German Constitutional Court referred the case for a preliminary ruling to the ECJ and asked the ECJ to determine as to whether article 5 (3) of the Brussels I Regulation allows individuals whose personality rights have been infringed, to bring an action at law in a Member State other than the Member State in which the website provider is established.

In the case of Olivier Martinez, Mr. Martinez, who is a French citizen, initiated a claim against MGN, the editor of the website of an English newspaper, for an alleged infringement of his private life. In the present case, MGN had published an article with the following title ‘Kylie Minogue is back with Olivier Martinez’. Since Mr. Martinez believed that the article constituted an infringement of his private life, he initiated proceedings before the courts of Paris. In its defense, MGN stated that the courts of Paris do not have jurisdiction since MGN is established in United Kingdom. Further thereto, the courts of Paris referred the matter to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling and asked the ECJ to clarify whether a citizen of a Member State can initiate proceedings in his own country against a website owner established in another Member State who infringes the personality rights of that citizen.

In its judgment the ECJ concluded that Article 5 (3) of the Brussels I Regulation allows a person to initiate proceedings for an alleged violation of his personality rights against a party established in another Member State, either i) before the courts in which the website provider is established or ii) in his own country. In order for an individual who is subject to an infringement of his personal rights to bring an action at law in his own country, the ECJ also stated that such action can only be initiated if damages have occurred in such country. (LDA)

The case can be found on http://www.curia.eu