Ursula Widmer

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court has ruled that a media provider that allows third parties to set up blogs on its website, is jointly responsible for their contents. The case specifically referred to the Geneva newspaper “Tribune de Genève”, which offers readers the facility to keep personal blogs on its website. One of these blogs be- longed to a Geneva politician who, in his articles, had violated the right of personality of a former director of the Cantonal Bank of Geneva. The person concerned consequently initiated legal action against the author of the blog and also against the newspaper, and demanded the deletion of the relevant article from the blog. The cantonal Court upheld the complaint and ordered the author and the newspaper to remove the blog article and to pay legal costs.

The newspaper appealed against this decision to the Federal Court, but without success. The court was not interested in the newspaper’s point that, in certain other countries, operators of websites that allow third parties to set up blogs cannot be held legally responsible for the content of the blog articles. The court referred to the fact that, under Swiss law, anyone who is involved in a violation of personality, and not just the author, may be subject to legal action. The operation of the website by the newspaper was judged by the court as being a relevant factor in the violation of personality.

The ruling of the cantonal court was therefore correct, in the opinion of the Federal Court. The newspaper was ordered to remove the offending blog article and to pay the costs of the proceedings. The court indicated in particular that, unlike in damages and compensation cases, there is no assumption of fault on the part of the respondent in applications for removal and injunction. It there- fore remained unclear whether the newspaper could successfully have been sued for compensation or damages, since the plaintiff had not brought any such claims against the newspaper.