What is Impressum And Why You May Need it
Perhaps one of the biggest and fastest ways to disseminate any form of content nowadays is through the use of the digital platform. No matter what type of online content you may have, from being a commercial blogger to reputable business with an online platform, utilizing the internet is a wise way to get the word out about the products, services, and content that you want to provide.
Unfortunately, the ability of people to hide behind anonymity online has given them an avenue to promote disinformation and escape accountability. This is especially damaging to customers and clients who have trusted the words, products, and services of these businesses and commercial bloggers. In order to protect people from spammers and provide a certain level of accountability for their online activities, it is important to tear down the wall of anonymity and enforce a more transparent way of developing an online identity.
What is an Impressum?
To respond to the growing issue of lack of accountability and transparency in the online platform, the Telemediengesetz (Telemedia Act) made the use of an Impressum a legal mandate. Businesses and commercial bloggers based in Germanic countries like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are required to provide information about their online platform and give an idea about the people in charge of running the business.
Coming from the Latin word “Impressum” which means to engrave or impress upon a surface, an Impressum is basically a statement of ownership and authorship of content that is legally mandated to be put on websites, newspapers, books, and magazines in Germanic countries. As mentioned, this was made in order to put a face behind any type of content and establish the need for responsibility on claims and words put behind a product or service.
Generally, the following information released in an Impressum are:
- Name of the owner (often a business or organization)
- Registered address of the owner (cannot be a PO box)
- Valid contact information (email address, office number, phone number, fax, etc.)
- Name of supervising authority
- Individual legal representative (owner or manager of the business)
- VAT or any equivalent state-issued number
- License numbers or trade registry numbers
It is necessary that businesses provide the details mentioned above in their domains and other platforms in order to avoid lawsuits and threats of a similar kind.
How should an Impressum be displayed?
The goal of having an Impressum is to establish credibility and assume responsibility for your content. Therefore, it is intuitive that people display Impressum in spaces that people can easily access. There wouldn’t be much use for an Impressum if people would not be able to find it on your website or online page easily. That is the reason why there are guidelines as to how you should display your Impressum, especially online.
It must always be available
Your Impressum should be readily available anytime anyone wants to see it. This means that if you have a page dedicated to your Impressum, you must make sure that the page is always active and has all the updated links and details.
Your Impressum should be immediately accessible
If people have to search page by page just to look for your Impressum, then it means that it doesn’t meet the criteria of being immediately accessible. The idea behind this rule is the fact that others may try to bury their Impressum somewhere in their online pages in order to prevent accountability while technically obeying the law.
In order to meet this criterion, you should make sure that people would be able to find your Impressum easily. You can easily accomplish that by letting Impressum have its own page or pinning your Impressum on top of your most recent posts.
An Impressum needs to be easily recognizable
An Impressum should be recognized for what it is — a statement of ownership without question. Therefore, it would make sense for you to include your Impressum in your “About Us” page or properly label and link to is as your “Impressum”.
Basically, you just have to make sure that people know they’re reading your Impressum. There should be no room for misrepresentation when it comes to displaying your Impressum on your platforms.
Examples of businesses using Impressum
Understanding the Telemediengesetz can be difficult on your own. While companies based on Germanic countries are mandated by law to apply this, the rule can get confusing when you are an international business, or you host an international .de domain. To be safe, multinational companies post their Impressum on their pages even if they’re not technically required to do so.
Here are some of the examples of Impressum formats that these companies use to comply with the Impressum mandate:
YouTube is an international brand and business, but it also has a German base. Here’s a sample of YouTube Germany’s Impressum containing the minimum required information:
901 Cherry Ave.
San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: +1 650-253-0000
Fax: +1 650-253-0001
Represented by: Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA, represented by the Board of Directors: Christine Flores, Jim Campbell
YouTube LLC is a company incorporated and registered under the laws of the state of Delaware, USA. Registrar: 428149, Secretary of State, State of Delaware
YouTube is a video platform where users can post videos and make them publicly accessible.
Facebook hosts business pages, some based in countries that necessitate the use of an Impressum. That is the reason why added an Impressum section on their pages as well in order to err on the side of caution.
The Impressum section on Facebook is quite easy to fill out. Here is a sample of Siemens’ Impressum on their Facebook page:
Tel. +49 89 636-00
Fax +49 69 6682-6664
Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Jim Hagemann Snabe
Joe Kaeser (President and CEO)
Ralf P. Thomas
Berlin and Munich, Germany
Berlin-Charlottenburg, HRB 12300
Munich, HRB 6684
VAT registration number
Responsible according to Paragraph 55, Section 2 of the German Interstate Broadcasting Agreement (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag)
Protect your business and be responsible for your content
Having an Impressum is a two-way street. On the one hand, people would be able to seek accountability from you and your business should it be proven that you handed out unoriginal or unlawful content. On the other hand, your page and content will always be protected under the law as long as you comply with all the rules governing the Telemedia Act.
If you are a business based in Germanic countries, or if you are an international business that occasionally deals or caters to businesses in these countries, it is better to just add an Impressum to protect yourself from frivolous lawsuits.
- March 6, 2019