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The German Courts have finally entered the Internet Age. The lower Chamber of Germany's Federal Parliament on Friday passed the German Electronic File Management Act, which will enable the German judiciary to process legal files and documents electronically.

The German Government and Administration are preparing for the digital future with the e-government program BundOnline 2005. Their aim: to go online with all services which are suitable for the Internet by the end of this year. More than 100 authorities and departments are working to make the approximately 450 services offered by the Federal Administration available on the Internet, including the Court system.

The leap is extraordinary, to say the least. While most judges and lawyers in Germany carry laptops, many lawsuits are still filed using old fashioned typewriters and carbon paper. The transition will put Germany suddenly in the forefront of the modernisation of the European Courts. Even lawyers and citizens in Germany will soon be able to submit petitions and pleadings to the courts via the Internet.

Tax collectors in Germany have already abandoned the paperwork. Earlier this month it became mandatory in Germany to file value-added-tax returns online. Papers forms are verboten.

Undoubtedly, IT firms will benefit from this transition, although German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said that it is up to the 16 states to actually acquire the PCs and software. No large deals with IT vendors have been announced yet.®

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