A lawyer must pay broadcasting fees for a PC with internet access used for professional purposes. This does not apply if he keeps a conventional radio set for professional purposes (e.g. in his offices or in the vehicle used for business purposes) and already pays broadcasting fees for it. This was the decision of the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate in Koblenz.
The plaintiff, a lawyer, uses a PC with internet access in his office, which he only uses for research in case law databases and for typing. Current radio programmes of the defendant Südwestrundfunk (SWR) as well as other public broadcasters can also be received via the internet. Therefore, the SWR charged the plaintiff broadcasting fees in the amount of €5.51 per month. The Administrative Court annulled the fee notices. In contrast, the Higher Administrative Court upheld SWR's appeal and dismissed the lawyer's action.
A PC with internet access was a new type of broadcasting reception device for which the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty provided for the payment of broadcasting fees. The plaintiff kept the computer ready for reception. This did not require actual use as a radio. The obligation to pay fees for PCs with an internet connection did not unreasonably impede access to the information sources offered free of charge on the internet and therefore did not violate the constitutionally protected freedom of information. This is because it is intended to secure the financing of public service broadcasting. Otherwise, it would be possible to receive broadcasting without having to pay broadcasting fees. Accordingly, the obligation to pay fees prevented the "escape from the broadcasting fee" by using PCs to receive broadcasting instead of previously common broadcasting devices.
The Higher Administrative Court allowed the appeal to the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig because the question of whether broadcasting fees must be paid for PCs with internet access used for professional purposes is of fundamental importance.
Judgement of the OVG Koblenz of 12 March 2009, file number: 7 A 10959/08.OVG
Source: Press release of the OVG Koblenz of 26.03.2009
Goldberg Rechtsanwälte - Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)
Specialist lawyer for information technology law (IT law)