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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Screw the (German) state

Germany is particularly odious when it comes to censorship and allowing legal interference with freedom of expression, but his one takes the biscuit for sheer absurdity…

Some 19 years ago, a man in Germany, together with his half brother, reportedly murdered an actor named Walter Sedlmayr. The man was convicted and served 15 years in jail. Now he is free. And, according to Wired, he has exercised that freedom by instructing lawyers, the elegantly named firm of Stopp and Stopp, to sue Wikipedia.

The lawsuit claims that German privacy law, designed to help criminals re-integrate into society, prevents the man being named in association with Walter Sedlmayr’s murder. Wired quotes Jennifer Granick from the Electronic Frontier Foundation as saying that the lawyers are not only demanding that publications change whatever they write now, but that online archives must endure revision, too.

And just for the record, the people in question who were convicted of murdering Walter Sedlmayr are Wolfgang Wehrle and his half brother Manfred Lauber (just to add yet another place in the google cache where that information can sit). This is wacko enough on its own, but the linked article in turn links to geek.com, quoting the EFF, where they make the much broader point as to why this latest legal excess cannot be tolerated

As the EFF beautifully puts it: “At stake is the integrity of history itself. If all publications have to abide by the censorship laws of any and every jurisdiction just because they are accessible over the global internet, then we will not be able to believe what we read, whether about Falun Gong (censored by China), the Thai king (censored under lèse majesté) or German murders”.

As the world networks together, increasingly we cannot tolerate legal attacks anywhere because the repercussions will not stay neatly within national borders, so neither can our hostility to such assaults on our liberty… now let us also do something about Britain’s intolerable defamation laws.

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11 comments to Screw the (German) state

  • Eric Tavenner

    I have saved your post to my hard drive. And Germany can go to stuff itself where the sun doesn’t shine, if they demand I delete it.

  • Paul

    What’s the German government going to do, stack electrons in a big pile and burn them?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    You’re right, of course. Worldwide enforcement of various countries censorship laws would have a chaotic effect on the internet. HOWEVER, that fact will simply be cited to justify a worldwide internet censorship protocol under the UN.

  • that fact will simply be cited to justify a worldwide internet censorship protocol under the UN.

    …which will be promptly circumvented by all those wonderfully talented geeky people who actually know how the internet works.

    Censorship on the internet is nigh on impossible as the network works in such a way that it see such censorship as damage and routes around it. The sheer volume of data travelling over the tubes every second is such that no human could ever hope to read it, let alone decide whether it deserves the application of a metaphorical black marker.

    The genie is out of the bottle and its never going back. Just as old media is being destroyed by the internet, old government and the control of information that they are used to is going to go that way too (along with ideas like copyright, but thats another debate).

    The geeks have inherited the earth, its just that the people they’ve inherited it from don’t realise that the funeral was yesterday.

  • cjf

    The best way to promote something, is to outlaw it.
    Forbidden knowlege has a great following.
    Reverse psycology is a great sale pitch.

  • Sunfish

    So, I guess you’re suggesting that Wolfgang Wehrle and Manfred Lauber (who murdered Walter Sedlmayr and went to prison for it) should apply for jobs at Trafigura?

  • Excellent idea Sunfish, sounds like a marriage made in heaven… well, maybe not heaven…

  • Freedom is the right to say “Wolfgang Werle was convicted of murdering Walter Sedlmeyer”… and of course 2+2=4!

  • German citizens aren’t the only ones who are being catered to by the German government to remove historical and real information from sites such as Wikipedia. The German government itself is stating that it has the right to control and censor some of the Wikipedia sites. The German government has kept many files regarding the holocaust closed. It is a fully secretive government, in full violation of any democratic principles, and the takeover of the publishing industry worldwide by German book publishers is leading to heavy editing, little unbiased political book publishing and actions fully detrimental to the book publishing industry worldwide.

  • Heh. Does anybody actually use Wikipedia other than for fun? I mean, come on. Even my Dad, who’s not exactly super tech-savvy, knows more than to trust a single word on Wikipedia, much less a whole string of them.

    Sorry. Just being facetious. I do agree that this is going a bit too far. Keep this up, and Freenet, I2P and Tor will get HUGE infrastructural boosts in the forms of people self-forming their own darknets.

    But then, expecting a bunch of Euro-legislators to understand tech is sort of like expecting a puppy to be toilet trained… it can be done, but it would involve a lot of mess at first.

  • Paul Marks

    I trust some words on Wikipedia – the words I put there.

    Seriously if someone has a problem with a Wikipedia article that has a falsehood in it MAKE A FUSS – it often works. For example, (eventually) I stopped the Economist crowd describing their magazine as a “classical liberal” one in favour of “free markets”.

    On Germany – I love German seriousness, although it sometimes leads to madness.

    I am sure there is a long and detailed load of stuff about how privacy is good and how it is needed for a criminal who has paid his debt, to have a useful life and ………..

    Various other stuff.

    In Britian the regulation,”do not state the name of a murderer”, would just be passed on a whim (without any of the “scientific” defence) and there would most likely be another regulation “you must state the name of a muderer” put into “law” at exactly the same time.

    A German would say “these regulations are contradictary”, but a British Civil Servant would not care (I know – I was one) and would enforce both regulations (our own form of madness).

    I get the impression that if Germans could actually be convinced of the value of freedom they would go for it a strong and capable way.

    However, there is that convincing them problem.