Germany: appellate court upholds denial of injunction against hotel review website

The plaintiff is operating a hotel in Berlin. The defendant is running a website provding for online booking of accomodation and travel packages. The website also has a section where users can post unattributed comments and reviews on hotels. These reviews included some negative comments on the plaintiff’s hotel.Claiming that the denfendant had established a kind of ‘virtual pillory’ where users without any rsik and without any control could publish their comments on the plaintiff even if they actually never had been accomodated in plaintiff’s hotel, the plaintiff filed a motion for an injunction to interdict the defendant the publication of any unattributed comments on plaintiff’s hotel.At first instance, the Landesgericht Hamburg dismissed the claim. Upon plaintiff’s appeal, the appellate court (OLG Hamburg) upheld this decision arguing that in balancing the mutual interests such claim could not be granted. The plaintiff could require the defendant to delete untrue statements on the hotel but had no right to be completely excluded form any review. Freedom of expression would also include a right to publish comments without disclosing one’s name.Source: OLG Hamburg press release of Jan. 18, 2012 on judgement 5 U 51/11 of Jan. 18, 2012

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