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Nothing on this page should be construed as an attempt to offer or render a legal opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of law.

An Impressum is a disclosure of information about the person responsible for a website that appears to be required by laws in some countries. This concerns creators in Germany and Austria the most. A rundown of the concept can also be found on the German Wikipedia: Impressumspflicht (German). This page will look mostly at Germany.

Why talk about this here?

The IndieWeb encourages people to create their own identity online and there has even been an IndieWebCamp organised in Germany. It seemed important to point out to people willing to start a website from Germany that they are required to disclose certain personal information on that new site.

The biggest hurdle for people is the requirement to publish their home address on their website.

Which laws are we talking about exactly?

  1. Telemediengesetz (TMG), especially § 5 Allgemeine Informationspflichten (“General informing duties”.)
  2. Staatsvertrag für Rundfunk und Telemedien (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag – RStV), especially § 55 Informationspflichten und Informationsrechte (“Informing duties and information rights”.)

When must I provide an Impressum on my site?

  • If any of your content is businesslike you are required to publish personal information in accordance with TMG § 5.
  • If any of your content can be interpreted as “journalistic and editorial services” you are required to publish personal information in accordance with RStV § 55.
  • If any of your content can be described as not exclusively personal or within family circles you are required to publish personal information in accordance with RStV § 55.

(These guidelines were adapted from Impressumspflicht auf (German) by Torsten Landsiedel, the standard answer to all Impressum related questions on the WordPress support forums.)

In theory, offering an online service to anyone in Germany means you have to comply with European and German laws concerning this. In practice, it is mostly websites ran by people in Germany or written in German (i.e. with a clear German audience) that have to comply.

This is not limited to your own domain. Several silos and hosted Software as Service require you to comply with local law. Even free blogs on need to include an Impressum [1].

Just being hosted in Germany might require you to provide an Impressum, as written by a German hosting company that was consulted on this:

If you are just hosting your website in Germany, but it’s not in german and not targeted at a german audience, you probably don’t need to have an Impressum at all. Again, the german laws are fuzzy on the matter what constitutes “targeted at a german audience”.

What information am I required to publish?

This depends on what law you have to comply with, but all of them require your full legal name and address. P.O. boxes do not suffice because you cannot be served there.

The Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection offers a guideline to help you figure out what you are required to publish: Leitfaden zur Anbieterkennzeichnung (German).

Several resources say you must also publish a phone number. The European Court has decided that a phone number can be replaced by a simple contact form however. See: Europäischer Gerichtshof entscheidet: Telefonnummer in der Anbieterkennzeichnung nicht notwendig, elektronische Anfragemaske reicht aus (German).

Although interpretation and law may vary per country, from European guideline 2000/31/EG, amongst others, it follows that for any commercial activity by a corporation, having a web site can be interpreted as such, a tax/vat number and a chamber of commerce registration has to be easily accessible on a website. In Germany this is the "UST-ID" and the "Handelsregister", in the Netherlands that would be "BTW" and "KvK".

Online generators.

There are some online services available that will generate the content of the Impressum page for you.

Both these services also allow you to generate privacy policy information compliant with Germany’s Datenschutz (data protection) requirements.

Further reading.

IndieWeb Examples