Feeds

Wikipedia sued for publishing convicted murderer's name

Hey Wolfgang Werlé: Ever heard of the Streisand Effect?

Security for virtualized datacentres

A man who served 15 years for the gruesome murder of a famous German actor is taking legal action against Wikipedia for reporting the conviction.

Attorneys took the action on behalf of Wolfgang Werlé, one of two men to receive a life sentence for the 1990 murder of Walter Sedlmayr. In a letter sent late last month to Wikipedia officials, they didn't dispute their client was found guilty, but they nonetheless demanded Wikipedia's English language biography of the Bavarian star suppress the convicted murder's name because he is considered a private individual under German law.

Werlé's "rehabilitation and his future life outside the prison system is severely impacted by your unwillingness to anonymize any articles dealing with the murder of Mr. Walter Sedlmayr with regard to our client's involvement," they wrote. "As your article deals with a local German public figure (such as the actor Walter Sedlmayr), we expect you are aware that you have to comply with applicable German law."

They go on to say they are currently taking legal action against Wikipedia in the trial court of Hamburg. And according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Werlé's attorneys have also gone after an Austrian internet service provider that published the names of the convicted.

The dispute is the latest example of a party reaching halfway across the globe in an attempt to deprive the world of content that may or may not violate the laws of a single jurisdiction. If such actions succeed, they will largely gut free speech rights such as those guaranteed by the First Amendment, which mostly immunizes people who speak the truth, particularly in matters that involve court cases and other government proceedings. In its place would be the precedent that websites anywhere in the world are subject to the most restrictive territory's rules and mores.

As EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Granick said: "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."

It was only 14 months ago that The Register reported the attempts of Kentucky officials to seize control of some of the world's most popular gambling domain names because a judge ruled they offered services that were illegal in that state. At the time, we wondered what the difference was between that action and the censorship China exercises towards Tibet. Four months later, an appeals court answered, in essence, "not much," when it ruled the state lacked the legal authority to commence the seizure.

Wikipedia's German language entry on Sedlmayr already takes pains to omit the names of the men convicted of his murder, even though it reports he "was injured with multiple stab wounds on the neck and kidneys and then been beaten to death with a hammer." If Werlé's parochial legal demands succeed, robust speech on the global internet will suffer a similar fate. ®

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.