Website Advisor: Creating a website • Notes on the legal notice • Step-by-step guide • What is a legal notice? • What needs to be in the legal notice?

Notes on Legal Notice

The statements on this page refer to the legal regulations in the European Union and especially to the legal situation in Germany. Other regulations may apply in countries outside the European Union.

When it comes to the topic of Legal Notice, there is often uncertainty. Many ask themselves the questions:
Do I need a legal notice at all?
How do I create a legally compliant legal notice?

Note: The following information is based on my own research and experience. I am not a lawyer. If you want to be 100% sure that your website is legally compliant, you should consult a lawyer (specialist in IT or Media Law). You can get more information about legal notice (German: Impressum) from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Industrie- und Hanelskammer, abbrv. IHK or from an online service such as e-Recht24.de.

What is a Legal Notice?

The Legal Notice is [...] a kind of business card. The user of the website should be able to check the seriousness of the provider. Consumers should be able to get an idea of the company or person behind the website, contact them and, if necessary, take legal action against them.
German Federal Ministry of Justice (BMJ) — Consumer Portal

In simple terms, the Legal Notice is an official contact information for the visitors of your web site.

Any website that is not purely private must have a valid legal notice.

You think you don't have a commercial website? Maybe you are wrong!

A single banner, Google Adsense or an affiliate link is enough for your website or blog to be classified as a commercial website. If you then don't have an Legal Notice, you are usually threatened with a fee-based warning. This can quickly become very expensive. With a legally compliant Legal Notice, you can save yourself this unnecessary and painful experience.

Note: This information refers to the legal situation in Germany. Similar rules exist in other countries. As in Germany, in Austria and Switzerland only a purely private website with no commercial intent is exempt from the Legal Notice Requirement.

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What must be included in the legal notice?

Some information must always be included in the Legal Notice. These are according to §5 German Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz, abbrv. TMG):

  • Full Name of the Website Operator

  • Summonable Address / Physical Address of the Website Operator. A PO Box is not allowed.

  • Contact Option such as email address and/or telephone number.
    The email address does not need to be clickable. According to the European Court of Justice (ECJ, 16.10.2008, C-298/07), a telephone number does not have to be provided. However, for online traders, the telephone number is still mandatory due to the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive.

If you are running a Website for your Business, you will also need to provide the following mandatory information.

  • VAT Id Number, if applicable

  • Legal form of the company (e.g. Ltd., Inc., GmbH, GmbH & Co KG, …)

  • Register Number, if applicable

  • Registry Court, if applicable

  • Person responsible for the content according to §18 (2) German Interstate Media Treaty (Medienstaatsvertrag, abbrv. MStV).

    Referring to the German Interstate Broadcasting Agreement (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag, abbrv. RStV) is not permissible, as it is no longer valid.

Depending on the company's industry and legal form, additional mandatory requirements may apply.

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Is it allowed to include the legal notice as a graphic?

To avoid spam, many website owners include their email address or even the entire Legal Notice as a graphic. This prevents the email address from being read by spam bots. But is this practice allowed at all?

According to §5 Telemedia Act, the Legal Notice must be easy to recognize. The mandatory information includes, among other things:

Information that enables rapid electronic contact and direct communication … including the address of the electronic mail. §5 (2) No. 2 Telemedia Act

This means that the email address always must appear next to another contact option in the Legal Notice and must be readable.

In the case of a graphic, there is no guarantee that it will always be displayed. Including the Legal Notice as a graphic prevents the text from being displayed by Screen Reading Software (e.g. screen readers for the blind). The law is not clear on whether it is allowed to include an Legal Notice as an image.

However, case law on the right of withdrawal as a graphic suggests that it is risky to include the Legal Notice as a graphic.

In general, I advise against using a graphic for an Legal Notice. Regardless of whether the Legal Notice Graphic is legally allowed, a graphic is always a barrier in terms of Accessibility.

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Where does the legal notice have to be?

According to §5 Telemedia Act the Legal Notice must be permanently available and directly accessible. Immediate accessibility is given if the required information can be retrieved without any significant steps and without having to search for a long time. In practice, this means that the Legal Notice must be accessible from every sub-page of the website with a maximum of two clicks.

To ensure that the website owner's details are easy to recognize and immediately accessible, a separate menu item should be included in the navigation. The link does not need to be in the main navigation of the website. A link in the footer of the homepage is sufficient.

The Legal Notice should not be displayed in a pop-up window, as many users block pop-ups. This would mean that it could not be displayed and would therefore be considered as non-existent.

The TMG (Telemedia Act) also applies to non-German websites if the provider's domicile or registered office is in Germany or if the offer is directly addressed to the German market.

What should be the name of the link to the legal notice page?

Since there is no exact translation for the German term Impressum, you have several options that you can use. In particular, a term that imply that it is a legal requirement is recommended.

The most commonly used term is Legal Notice. Alternatively, the term Legal Disclosure can be used. The often used term Imprint is incorrect for a website and should not be used.

Creative names are generally not sufficient to fulfil all requirements.