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German Wikipedia Threatened w/ Injunction 318

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the common-problem-in-germany-i-bet dept.
TheEagleCD writes "Wikipedia.de, the German version of the popular Wikipedia Encyclopedia, is currently closed due to a German court order. A detailed account of the current controversy [en.wikipedia.org] is available, the short version is that the family of "Tron" (Boris Floricic) - a German hacker and phreaker - is trying to force Wikipedia.de from removing the family name from his entry." As I write this the site is back up, as is the tron entry that caused the whole mess. However it does appear that the entire domain was briefly shut down over one entry.
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German Wikipedia Threatened w/ Injunction

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  • Actually, (Score:5, Informative)

    by Captain Perspicuous (899892) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:29PM (#14514243)
    the german wikipedia [wikipedia.org] (which is under Jimmy's control) was never down, only the site www.wikipedia.de [wikipedia.de] (under control of a german club), which normally redirected to the former, and is still down now. So, everybody who remembers the "real" wikipedia address can still use wikipedia without any problems.
    • Re:Actually, (Score:3, Interesting)

      Just wanted to add this: It's pretty easy to block a server quickly in many countries with a provisional injunction (at least it's easy in most european countries). But as soon as such an injunction has to cross a national border, it becomes much more tricky. So the distributed nature of the internet has made it easier to keep information out there (or more difficult to stop info, whatever is your view point), and this principle is what we can see at work here.

      Hurray for US free speech rights, now automatic
      • Re:Actually, (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hast (24833)
        Hurray for US free speech rights

        I think you have slightly mis-informed view of the world. Most western countries have the same rights to free speech (you guys did import it from the French after all). The same story could have taken place in the states, although in that case someone would probably have been sued an astronomical amount of money as well. ;-)

        If anything I say hurray for the Internet. Jay for putting bureaucracy in way of lawyers!
    • Re:Actually, (Score:5, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:55PM (#14514441) Homepage
      A few clarifications for the pedant in all of us: First, Wikipedia is under control of the Wikimedia Foundation [wikimedia.org] these days, not just Jimmy Wales; second, the "German club" in question is actually the German chapter of the Wikimedia foundation [wikimedia.de] and not just some totally random club. And yes- wikipedia.de remains down even as de.wikipedia.org remains up.
  • MCP (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "A detailed account of the current controversy [en.wikipedia.org] is available, the short version is that the family of "Tron" (Boris Floricic) - a German hacker and phreaker - is trying to force Wikipedia.de from removing the family name from his entry.""

    MCP is trying to delete another program.
  • Just hot air (Score:4, Informative)

    by arvindn (542080) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:32PM (#14514266) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedia is (mostly) hosted in the US. The German court does not have jurisdiction. End of story. They can do whatever they want to the wikipedia.de domain, but de.wikipedia.org as well as the actual content is totally unaffected.
    • The Wikimedia foundation has a German chapter, though. I'm not sure whether that really means much - and it probably very much depends on exactly what kind of influence / authority this chapter has -, but it's not like Wikipedia's just a US website entire unconnected (legally) to Germany, either.
    • Re:Just hot air (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hweimer (709734) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @07:15PM (#14514555) Homepage
      Wikipedia is (mostly) hosted in the US. The German court does not have jurisdiction. End of story. They can do whatever they want to the wikipedia.de domain, but de.wikipedia.org as well as the actual content is totally unaffected.

      I wouldn't be too sure about that. If Jimbo decides to ignore this issue, Wikimedia Germany might face paying fines and damages since the original offender is out of reach. German law has some provisions allowing this and they are enforced quite often, especially when dealing with links to sites in another jurisdiction.
      • So the German chapter loses all of its assets over the content of the German language (note German) Wikipedia. That's fine. Beats giving the German or Swiss or other courts control of all German language content.
        • Re:Just hot air (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mysidia (191772)

          The content belongs to the editors who created it, not the Wikimedia foundation, and has already been licensed under the GFDL anyways by virtue of having been posted.

          They may have holdings to lose, like server equipment, but the actual content's already tied up.

          • Exactly right. Content can be moved, though it's not yet as easy as it should be because the full master copy is not fully and independently mirrored on equipment with different owners.

            At present, no mirror has all of the author / copyright holder details like password hashes and email addresses which would be needed for a really smooth transition to different servers. These things are not part of any public database dump, for obvious security reasons.
      • Minor Correction (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ilyanep (823855)
        Just because Jimbo is a godking over there doesn't mean he makes all the decisions. The Wikimedia Foundation has a board that includes Jimbo.
    • Perhaps groups like Wikipedia should move the various groups around. That is keep most if not all of the none english ones in America and then move the English group to some other country which has laws that make it difficult for the gov. to interfere with them.
    • Re:Just hot air (Score:4, Insightful)

      by idlake (850372) on Friday January 20, 2006 @12:56AM (#14516730)
      They do have jurisdiction over German domain addresses, as well as connectivity between the US and Germany. They can and they will do whatever it takes to enforce German law. They could, for example, fine subsidiaries of network providers unless they start filtering.

      I think they are wrong in this case, but don't live under any illusion that they can't get their way.

      Besides, US courts are much more aggressive in enforcing their rights overseas; in addition to fining or shutting down foreign companies, they will actually send US police to "help" foreign nations enforce US laws.
  • Not really (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:32PM (#14514279)
    It's not like the German wikipedia is taken off the net. It's just the popular domain wikipedia.de that's unavailable. de.wikipedia.org works just fine, and has all the information ready that is being debated.
    It more of a side-effect of the german justice system that you're experiencing here. There are "act quickly" court orders that you need to obey, until the real case is being discussed in court. I'd bet they'll just reject to even start debating the case. Freedom of press is valued highly _in Germany_, you know.
    • It more of a side-effect of the german justice system that you're experiencing here. There are "act quickly" court orders that you need to obey, until the real case is being discussed in court.

      But I don't understand why they are blocking the whole site/redirector wikipedia.de. Wouldn't it be enough to just block the article in question?

      This seems to be either a clueless court or wikipedia.de trying to get some media attention on this censorship issue.
      • Re:Not really (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lehk228 (705449)
        wikipedia.de redirects to de.wikipedia.org. there is no way to edit/block pages on wikipedia.de without doing the same on de.wikipedia.org.
        • wikipedia.de redirects to de.wikipedia.org. there is no way to edit/block pages on wikipedia.de without doing the same on de.wikipedia.org.

          There is a web server running separately on wikipedia.de. What is the technical problem with selectively filtering the Tron-URL?
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:33PM (#14514280)
    ACHTUNG!

    ALLES WEBBENSURFERS!

    Das Wikipagen is nicht fur gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy pissen off der blogbereich, libellen und slanderen mit lawsuitspawnen. Ist nicht fur editten by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken kourtjudgen musten keepen das cotten-pickenen hands in das pockets - relaxen und watchen das flammekrieg.

  • Actual Complaint (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wangf00 (901609)
    So what is their actual complaint here? Are they just mad that wikipedia posted easily findable information in an article? Or are they mad that their name is linked to a convicted criminal? Seems like wikipedia is the wrong place to divert that anger.
    • Re:Actual Complaint (Score:3, Interesting)

      by globalar (669767)
      According to another Wiki article [wikipedia.org], the parents originally tried to force a German publisher to remove from sale a piece of fiction that had a character with their son's handle, Tron. Allegedly, the publisher declined saying that the Wikipedia used the name. The parents now pursue Wikipedia. This is all completely based on the Wiki article [wikipedia.org], though.
    • Re:Actual Complaint (Score:5, Interesting)

      by parabyte (61793) on Friday January 20, 2006 @02:51AM (#14517165) Homepage
      The background here is extremely complex. I knew TRON personally, and I know many people from the german wikipedia community and the Chaos Computer Club, where TRON was active until his death. From what I see, the community has been divided in about two halves for some time regarding the issue of TRON's real name in wikipedia, even if no one appreciates the escalation. But the story is not a story of censorship or some bad guys against wikipedia, it is the story of parents of a dead hacker against ignorance and harping on about principles. The parents did not want to have the article removed, they just wanted TRONs real name to be abbreviated as Boris F., instead of the full name as it is in the wikipedia right now. Seven letters.

      But for everyone who has not been involved: here is a short version of a complex story how I have experienced it:

      • Boris F. was a german hacker under the pseudonym TRON, doing a lot of advanced chipcard hacking and crypto gear development
      • TRON died in 1998, he probably committed suicide, but there is a slight chance he was murdered
      • All german newspapers and TV covered the case, and two books were written about it, among them a novel ("Offenbarung 23") that contains a lot of bullshit that no parent wants to read about a son, especially if it is fiction; however, for marketing purposes, the author of the novel printed the full real name in the book, stating that his novel was "based" on this real case
      • the parents sued the publisher/author of the book to remove the real name
      • the author/publisher used as a defence that the real name can be found in the wikipedia
      • the parents removed the real name from the article
      • a wikipedia edit war broke out, which resulted in several locks by wikipedia admins
      • the parents tried for months to convince wikipedia admins to remove the real name; of course they are aware that the name can be found in the internet at many places, but the fact it is on wikipedia was used against them in a court case, so they had to act
      • in the wikipedia community, there were advocates for both sides, probably about half of the people arguing to respect the wish of the parents, the other half to keep the full real name there, for the sake of information freedom; if you speak german you can read the discussion page at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diskussion:Tron_(Hack er) [wikipedia.org]
      • the wikipedia community finally decided to leave the name there, but the process is not a very democratic or transparent one, and even if it was, minority rights are above democratic decisions
      • at the german wikimedia foundation, no one was able to really deal with the situation; instead, they basically argued "we are not responsible for the content"
      • some individuals at wikipedia who had no mandate to do so dragged this thing into the press, escalating the issue out of control of the community
      • the parents, their supporters and the german court machinery did their work, and now a court ordered that the domain wikipedia.de must no longer forward to the de.wikipedia any more

      The question is: How could this get so far? I think, because of the ignorance and stubbornness some of the wikipedia people in Germany who decided to ignore the asking and adjuring of the parents of a dead guy on one side, and the determination of friends of TRON and supporters of the parents, who are also part of the hacker community and at some point gave up in convincing *all* of the involved wikipedians and finally helped the parents to legally proceed against wikipedia. Maybe Wikipedia underestimtated the determination of the parents because they are just, well, some parents of some dead hacker. They even ignored all ample warnings, publicly accusing the people who warned them that they are making up the legal threats, and that they do not speak for the parents. All in the name of freedom of information.

      In Germany ther

      • Re:Actual Complaint (Score:3, Informative)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        The dilemma here is that two values are in conflict...The protection of privacy, in this case: the right not to be associated with some fictive character that has been based on their son's life, and the personal rights of the son that are at protected even post mortem.

        Very few countries protect the privacy of the dead. That's why all the nasty stories come out after a celeb dies, but no one can sue for libel. As for the parents, they are not mentioned and it's just their bad luck their surname is distinc

        • Re:Actual Complaint (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Fnkmaster (89084)
          The grandparent poster makes several good points and you fail it by bringing Hitler into the argument, even in an oblique fashion. The point is that politicians and movie stars choose to live their lives in the limelight, whereas a private citizen doesn't. In this case, the notoriety of a private citizen who never used his real name in any public forum stands to adversely impact the business and personal lives of his parents, who have already suffered immensely due to what sounds like his untimely death.

          I
      • by juhaz (110830) on Friday January 20, 2006 @06:23AM (#14517810) Homepage
        You've been claiming that the publisher used wikipedia as a "defence" or "evidence" - that doesn't matter, what matters is did the court really buy that abysmally bad excuse? If they did, THERE is your real problem, everyone can see that usage of name in a factual biography, foreign to boot, is vastly different from use in libelous fiction novel, file an appeal.

        You've also stated that other sites with the name are not "relevant" which is, frankly, bullshit. It may not have been presented yet, but the publisher has shown that they're willing to use that excuse, and they WILL use it again even if Wikipedia should yield, if the parents think they can censor the whole world while the publisher keeps up coming with other places that show it, one after another, they're kidding themselves, that way lies defeat, but they also end up hurting freedom of speech in the process.

        Wikipedia is not the bad guy here, prosecuting an innocent third party as a workaround because you can't get at the real culprit is wrong, no matter what. The parents deserve to lose this one.
      • by gowen (141411)
        But the story is not a story of censorship ... they just wanted TRONs real name to be abbreviated as Boris F., instead of the full name as it is in the wikipedia right now.
        This isn't a story of censorship, they just want the legal power to remove factual information from a website because they don't want it to become known...

        Erm ... how is that not censorship exactly?
  • by mrchaotica (681592) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:37PM (#14514315)
    Last paragraph of Wikipedia's [EN] entry: [wikipedia.org]
    The Austrian online magazine "futurezone" interviewed Andy Müller-Maguhn on 19 January 2006 about the case and its backgrounds. Maguhn admitted that the true reason behind the incident is a fictitious work recently published by a German author in which the main actor has the same (civil) name as Tron. The parents sent a protest to the publisher but were turned down with the argument that the German Wikipedia is using the name as well. Müller-Maguhn then asked the German Wikipedia to remove the name, but was turned down for a number of reason, including failure to present proof that he is entitled to speak and act on behalf of the parents.

    So basically, because they want to stop some guy from using the name for a fictional character they're trying to stop Wikipedia from using it to refer to the actual, original person.

    W. T. F?! -- and, more importantly, why don't they sue the publisher?!!
    • W. T. F?! -- and, more importantly, why don't they sue the publisher?!!

      For the same reason that parents sue game manufacturers when some kid blames his bad behavior on a video game, of course.

    • The answer is simple: Germany is not the USA. We don't sue over everything just because we can - if a German goes to court (s)he does it for very good reasons, for example because less radical (and expensive, as lawsuits tend to be) methods didn't work. I would have found it quite strange if they would have sued the publisher as the first reaction.

      A lawsuit is a logical step, but it's still a bit away.
  • I was pretty confused today when I tried to access the German version of wikipedia through www.wikipedia.de, because they merely stated that some court in Berlin ordered them to abandon this URL. After a brief moment of shock I just went to www.wikipedia.org and clicked on the link for the German version (which worked). It's just a small detour and actually it's just fair if you take into account that the .com URL always redirected you to .org (if you type in www.wikipedia.co.uk you end up on the English ve
    • It's just a small detour and actually it's just fair if you take into account that the .com URL always redirected you to .org (if you type in www.wikipedia.co.uk you end up on the English version directly on the other hand).

      So, as long as they don't piss off the USA (which runs the DNS system) Wikipedia should be fine.. but as we saw with a certain lawyer who allegedly played a part in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Wikipedia is not untouchable.

  • With global news markets, the prohibitions of publishing a suspect's last name is getting a somewhat pointless. In the Netherlands, you have to say Muhammed B., but you only need to check the BBC website to find out that it's Muhammad Bouyeri. In the Netherlands, you read "Joran van der S.", but every website in the US prints "Joran van der Sloot."
    • The prohibitions of publishing a suspect's last name is getting a somewhat pointless.

      It might be pointless, but with the vulturing going around in the news media to publish as much details as possible before a judge has ruled, I prefer the good old John D. without any pictures (or pictures with a black bar over the eyes) than the full name, address, date of birth, current-outfit and colour photos printed on the frontpage with in large font above it "How could this man do...".
    • I think it is a good practice, something the global news market perhaps should take note of instead of just slandering the names of (potential) suspects for money. Keeping the suspects anonymous in no way affects the story as it is highly unlikely that any significant percentage of readers even directly know the suspect in question.

      After all we are talking about *suspects* here, that is people that MIGHT be the actual offender, but of which you cannot be sure. That's how I always try to see such people w

      • Suspects still are entitled to sue for slander (or libel) if it in fact takes place. However, accurately reporting that so-and-so was arrested and charged with [x] is not slander---it is simply stating verifiable facts.
      • There's no slander or libel involved. If someone is accused or arrested or on trial those are simply facts about a current event, not a comment on the character of a person who has not been found guilty of any crime.
  • IANA(G)L, but is there anything stopping www.wikipedia.de from explicitly telling viewers how to get to the real German wikipedia site... e.g. a direct link to de.wikipedia.org

    Suing the wikipedia.de site seems ineffective. By the way, there's more background on the case at the English wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org].
  • Well done. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kunzy (880730) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:40PM (#14514344) Homepage
    So instead of having his family name in an obscure wikipedia entry that no one ever reads its on the frontpage of slashdot now. Way better...
  • by BHennessy (639799) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:41PM (#14514349)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Benjamin_Parker [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man [wikipedia.org] both link/redirect to the same page, clearly giving away his secret identity, if the Parkers can put up with it, then it shouldn't be a big deal for Tron/Boris F./Boris Floricic 's family.
  • Oh boy... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdot@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:45PM (#14514375) Homepage Journal
    No better way to divert attention than to trying to shut down an international site. I'm REALLY sure nobody will know, from now on, who Boris Floricic aka "Tron" is!

    Oops, what did I say? *shuts mouth*
  • Bogus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tmandry (710511)

    From the Wikipedia article:

    The order prohibits the Foundation from mentioning the full name on any website under the domain "wikipedia.org".
    And how is Wikimedia going to carry that out? Censor the name from going into pages? That would severely hurt their credibility while being ineffective (there are so many ways around computer censors that it's not even funny).

    Maguhn admitted that the true reason behind the incident is a fictitious work recently published by a German author in which the main act

    • Right now, both the English and German Wikipedias are locked (en semi-locked, de fully locked) and have the full name in the article. It doesn't look like they're doing a lot to stay with the injunction, mostly because filtering every single input and article for the phrase "Boris Floricic" would just be absurd.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:50PM (#14514408)
    So you sue someone to stop them from mentioning your name.

    That just brings up all kinds of odd questions. Like: Is wikipedia allowed to talk about the fact they got sued? And if they do talk about being sued, are they allowed to mention the names of the people who sued them? Since, you know, it's apparently banned to mention these people's last names, that's why wikipedia's in court in the first place. How does wikipedia report on the court case? Do they have to just say "we have been sued by somebody, we can't tell you who, but their name begins with F"? Are they allowed to publish documents, like court summons and such, from the case but only so long as they black out the names of the plaintiffs with a magic marker?
  • Legal Status (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RebelGuys2 (857090) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @07:09PM (#14514519)
    I was editing on Wikipedia when the legal notice started to surface on the English Wikipedia entry for this individual, which was quickly deleted by English Wikipedia Administrators. Last I checked, all Wikipedia entries do not include Boris's last name, and though our opinions differ on the matter, most of us refer to Boris as "Boris F---" or something of the like in Discussion and Talk pages. The main dilemma, of course, remains as to whether Germany has jurisdiction over our content. Legally, they do not, as the Wikimedia servers are hosted in Florida. However, there is precedent that any individual involved in writing this article can be immediately detained upon ever setting foot in Germany. I can't remember the details, but an Australian man writing revisionist Nazi theories was arrested for publishing his works elsewhere. We can continue to post up "Floricic," or however it's spelled, on Wikipedia if we wished. However, I think that the Administrators were justified in making the page deletes due to legal threats. Where do we draw the line, though? If Iran ordered us to not write about something, I'd seriously doubt most administrators on Wikipedia would take drastic action. I seriously doubt the U.S. would ever consider extradition (not to mention the public outcry) if an American was shipped away because of an anti-free speech German law. The bottom line is: legally, Wikipedia has no need to listen to Germany. However, what will happen when one of the article's editors, or a member of the Wikimedia foundation, sets foot in Germany?
    • However, what will happen when one of the article's editors, or a member of the Wikimedia foundation, sets foot in Germany?

      How about the EU? Are powers of arrest extended to other EU countries now?

    • Re:Legal Status (Score:4, Informative)

      by bhima (46039) <Bhima@Pandava.gmail@com> on Friday January 20, 2006 @04:35AM (#14517533) Journal
      You've got that completely wrong:

      David Irwing is British not Australian
      He was arrested here in Austria not in Germany
      He was not arrested "immediately detained upon ever setting foot" here
      He was not arrested for violating Austrian law in another country but rather for making a public speech to students in Wien.
      The Law he was arrested on is not some "Anti-Free Speech Law" but rather they are laws aimed at preventing the reoccurrence of previous atrocities.
      The US also has speech that is not protected... this isn't all that different.

      Why is it that you American Nationalists always want to distort what is going on in Europe when you obviously don't have a clue?
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @07:32PM (#14514668)
    Because only the UN is above the politics and special-interest pushing and pulling that might cause a domain record to yanked for making someone upset.
  • "the short version is that the family of "Tron""

    Anybody else fist thought of the Dave Chapelle Show before thinking of the Disney movie?
  • What can easily be explained by a good old fashioned slashdotting...
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Friday January 20, 2006 @03:19AM (#14517263)
    The parents of Tron calling for a temporal decree at a german court and having his real name deleted from Wikipedia are being silly. Tron is, by definition, "a person of public interest" (german legal term) and any legally optainable information on him may thus be published.
    A temporal decree in german law is exactly that: temporal. A decision by court that needs to be followed until the real court rule is out. No judge in his right mind will prohibit an encyclopedia from publishing details about Tron.

    This case does emphasise though that writers to wikipedia are bound by german publishing law and are liable for any damage they cause by deliberately publishing lies or such. Just because the server with german content is outside of germany doesn't mean you'll get away with causing public unrest (Volksverhetzung), denial of the Holocaust ('Auschwitz Lüge') or anything else that is illegal in germany. If the indended audience evidently is in germany the courts won't fall for cheap excuses. Which makes perfect sense.

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