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We have prepared an open science database project with a website. The project is not owned by a university,
and should not be hosted on a university server.
Are there suggestions on how to run such a website, while being not personally eligible for legal issues - in case any occur? Also it would be an aim to avoid having to publish your private home address in the impressum.  

Is it a reasonable solution to run the webpage as a private person / founding a non-profit company / founding a association (Verein)?

2 Answers

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by (783 points)
I do not think the law is interested in what your website is about (as long as it's not forbidden), and as a consequence, I do not see the relevance of your question for this Q&A collection.

I am not a lawyer, but as far a I know, private and non-commercial websites do not have to include an impressum in Germany, so you could just run your website as a private person without having to publish your postal address.
by (40 points)
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Thank you very much for this response!
It seems true that private websites do not need to include an impressum in Germany.
However, it seems that websites with regular journalistic and editorial ("journalistische und redaktionelle") contents, need to have one. While it might be the case that by now there is no cases of an explicit legal decisions for "Open Science"-websites (regardles of how these are defined), but most of them will fulfill the criterion that there is regular editorial content. So I would assume that pretty much every such website needs a impressum.

Example-References for this information:
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by (40 points)

This is a short summary on the information that we have obtained on this topic.

A good overview on the legal situation in Germany, particularly on the "Impressumspflicht" can be found on Wikipedia. In short: All commercial sites need an Impressum, while purely private pages do not. In addition to the Telemediengesetzt, there is the Presserecht manifested in the Rundfungsstaatsvertrag which extends this regulation to: "Anbieter von Telemedien, die nicht ausschließlich persönlichen oder familiären Zwecken dienen, haben folgende Informationen leicht erkennbar, [...]", which can be assumed (from my perspective) to basically cover all types of "Open Science Wesites". --> You need an Impressum

What are the possibilities:

  • Running the website via the University/Institute (Disadvantage: Loss in flexibility)
  • Running the website as a private person (Disadvantage: Your private/home address will be on the website; You are fully responsible for any content and potential legal problems)
  • Having your name + work address in the Impressum: You probably need permission by the university, We did not find any cases/reports on the question if this is in line with the laws or other regulations that apply
  • Founding an association (Verein) which runs the website as legal body (Disadvantages: Administrative burdens, You need multiple people who run the association)
  • Founding a company which runs the website (Disadvantage: Costs and administrative workload, perception of the project as commercial; Usually run from the same address as your home address; it needs to be at least a UG (haftungsbeschränkt) to majorly improve accountability issues of you as private person)

Does anyone know further alternatives for running such any "Science Website"?

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As the second person of the "we", I would like to add:

A legal consultation I had confirms: Impressum is a must.

Further remarks regarding the above mentioned possibilities:
* Running the website via University: If this means running it on the Uni server, it might also affect the initial developer’s/operater’s/researcher’s legal position towards the site, meaning: University might claim certain rights on the project.
* Having your name + work address in the Impressum: „You probably need permission by the university, We did not find any cases/reports on the question if this is in line with the laws or other regulations that apply“
In a legal consultation I was clearly advised to seek this solution, in order to avoid to make my private address public. However, checking your Uni postbox regularly then is advisable.

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