Free eBook site Project Gutenberg Blocks German Visitors over Court Ruling:

Offering translations of your site in other languages may be risky

As a web site owner, an interesting point to take away from this lawsuit is that offering your site in other languages than your primary one could cause you to fall under other country’s jurisdiction.  While Project Gutenberg offered other languages as a convenience to non-USA visitors, the German court’s ruling clearly shows that having a German translation led them to feel that the site was targeting German citizens.

With scripts available that automatically translate a site into another language, many web site owners have used them as a convenience to their visitors. While these translations were often confusing and potentially not accurate, web site owners found them to still be useful for visitors from other countries.

With rulings like this one, web site owners may start to think differently about offering their site in other languages for fear of falling under another country’s legal system.

(Via Latest news and stories from

This whole story is absurd. Do read the article. There is so much to unpack in this dispute. Sadly, Project Gutenberg’s approach of going dark in Germany, while somewhat passive aggressive, might be the first example of the most effective way to get serious comprehensive reform where citizen users make the change happen.

Before U.S. citizens get too “holier than thou”, remember that Congress keeps pushing out when certain properties become public domain.