Czech Republic: Admissibility of evidence in the form of website content
The Czech Supreme Administrative Court dealt with the interesting question of evidence-taking in administrative proceedings by capturing website content, which may be problematic due to the variability of the content concerned. This issue was dealt with by the Court in a case in which the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (CTIA) documented the status of a website by describing the same in an inspection report, and by a printout of the captured form of the website on which, according to CTIA’s opinion, the applicant committed an administrative offense of misleading consumers.
The Court has already ruled that such evidence is not always completely reliable. A printed page may deform the content of the website, and does not always enable determining whether the website is not interactive and does not hide more information than is evident from the printout. That does not automatically mean that such evidence is a priori inadmissible in administrative proceedings.
According to the Court’s opinion, if evidence is to have the form of capturing a website, such a process should be used that is situationally appropriate to prove its content. If, for example, it is necessary to prove the existence of assertions in the text contained on the website, it is sufficient to print the website. If, however, not only a text, but e.g. some graphical elements are involved, it is necessary to capture the website content so that such graphical elements are not deformed in any way or directly eliminated. Also, there is a difference between proving whether certain information has been published, or, on the contrary, missing on the website (either situation may be relevant for the proceedings). The Court is of the opinion that in the first case a plain copy should suffice, while in the second case it is necessary to capture the website using a more comprehensive method.
In conclusion, we can summarise that evidence-taking in the form of capturing a website is possible, but it is always necessary to choose a method that sufficiently comprehensively captures the fact to be proven. One can also presume that although the above decision concerns evidence-taking in administrative proceedings, it may have a certain didactic value for judicial or arbitration proceedings.
(Source: The judgment of the Supreme Administrative Court File No. 1 As 80/2016 - 30 dated 24 August 2016)