The German legal system has some real, eh, compatibility problems with how free speech is practiced on the web. “Mahnungen” is one problem. Judges unhappy with how discussion on the web de facto works, is another. The blogger and journalist Stefan Niggemeier has been taken to court by the company Callactive (which produces a kind of call-in TV programme for MTV). In a court in Hamburg he has now lost and been given a fine of 6.000 euro. The reason: he didn’t pre-moderate comments on his blog. Specifically, a commenter made an illegal statement (in the middle of the night) about Callactive. Niggemeier removed it a few hours later. But that wasn’t good enough for the court. In effect, this means that the court means that all bloggers must pre-moderate the comments. Niggemeier concludes (my translation):
My view is unchanged: Were the Hamburger Landgericht’s understanding of the law (…) to win through, it would mean the end of open discussion on forums, blogs and online media. Because then the risks connected with running a forum or a blog that deals with controversial issues or dubious business practices would be much too large. I will appeal this ruling.
And thanks for that. It seems clear that someone needs to take these cases to the highest level — the German constitutional court or the European Court of Human Rights. Mercedes Bunz offers her help, for what it’s worth, this blog does the same. But where are the press organizations? When I interviewed the leaders of the Norwegian editors’ and journalists’ associations for a report about blogging and journalism last year, I asked specifically if they would support a (hypothetical) blogger who was being pressed to reveal his sources, and they confirmed that they would. Niggemeier’s case is different, but the principle the same: The German press should take Niggemeier’s case and a representative “Mahnung”-case and make them their own.
(via Netzeitung Blogblick.)