The laws for the protection of minors in Germany also apply to foreign-based content providers. Mindgeek subsidiaries Pornhub, Youporn and MyDirtyHobby might see themselves getting blocked in Germany unless they comply. This view of the German Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media has now also been confirmed by the District Court in Düsseldorf. This means that the Mindgeek brands must redesign their service in order to continue to be available to German audiences.
The court ruling stated that the provisions of the German Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media are fully applicable, even if providers are based abroad. Previously, Mindgeek’s portals registered in Cyprus had assumed that the German rules did not apply to them. The State Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia took action against this view and has now been proven right in court.
The state media authority called the ruling »very gratifying.« This puts an end to unequal treatment of German and foreign porn providers. Companies based in Germany already had to place a real age verification check while companies based abroad did not have to do so and thus had a competitive advantage for many years.
Under the leadership of Tobias Schmid, this was a thorn in the side of the state media authority. Schmid says of the ruling, »In light of the decision, we are once again calling on the adult platforms to immediately ensure the effective protection of children and young people. The only thing they have to do for this is to introduce effective age verification checks. Alternatively, they can also stop distributing their offer in Germany.«
The portals had tried to fend off the state media authority’s advance by means of emergency motions, but the court rejected the motions in their entirety. According to the court, the procedure violates neither national constitutional law nor international law nor the law of the European Union. According to the court, the EU member state Cyprus had also been sufficiently involved in the measures.
An appeal to the so-called country-of-origin principle, according to which only the rules of the country of origin apply to Internet providers, was not applicable, the court said. The German protection of minors in the media must therefore be respected.The providers now have the option of appealing, which would move the case to the higher administrative court. However, this appeal has no deferring effect on the consequences of the previous ruling.
Schmid sees not only German-language adult providers at a disadvantage, but also other media companies that have to comply with the requirements for the protection of minors. He also sees the protection of minors itself as being reduced to absurdity by the status quo. “If, on the one hand, we control every trailer on TV, but expose children to abnormal sexual practices unfiltered on the net, we might as well give up on it altogether.”
Mindgeek and other foreign providers, however, suspect a moral smear campaign and see their sales at risk. That’s because German regulations regarding age verification make anonymous consumption of pornography nearly impossible. Having to give one’s real name puts many people off, and forcing customers to reveal their identity could lead to immense losses in audience reach for services that are largely free.
Ultimately, however, age verification, which only applies to Germany, is still easy to circumvent. With VPN, it is still possible to disguise one’s own IP and location in Germany without any problems. This means that young people can still access the content no matter what. The fight by the German authorities is therefore probably nothing more than a matter of principle without any real life consequences.