German MP scores own goal

Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 18:05 | Posted in absurd, Freedom of speech, Germany, internet, Legal, web 2.0. | 6 Comments
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If you type www.wikipedia.de into the address bar of your browser you would normally find a search box for articles in the German Wikipedia which is hosted in a US based server belonging to  Wikimedia Foundation. As from late Friday, the page looks like this (click for a full size view):

The reason for this provisional change of layout is an interim injunction issued by Landgericht Lübeck. The court injunction was sought by Left Party member of German Federal Parliament Lutz Heilmann. Wikipedia.de is ordered not to redirect to de.wikipedia.org, i.e. the German Wikipedia.

Mr Heilmann is apparently unhappy about an article in German Wikipedia about himself. I addition to regular CV there is a short passage about Lutz Heilmann’s alleged activities within the former East German Secret Police STASI. Referring to an article in Spiegel Online, Wikipedia writes:

Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit

Im Oktober 2005 enthüllte Der Spiegel die von Heilmann bislang verschwiegene Stasi-Vergangenheit. Heilmann gibt bis heute öffentlich an, von 1985 bis 1990 einen „verlängerte[n] Wehrdienst (Personenschutz MfS)“ geleistet zu haben.[2] Heilmann war nach Ableisten der allgemeinen Wehrpflicht von 18 Monaten für die Zeit bis 1990 als Berufssoldat beim MfS beschäftigt und verließ dieses erst, als es aufgelöst wurde.[4]

Vor der Wahl hatte Heilmann den Mitgliedern des Landesverbandes seine Tätigkeit beim MfS verschwiegen. Dies stellte einen Verstoß gegen innerparteiliche Richtlinien dar. Auf dem Landesparteitag am 4. Dezember 2005 stimmten die Mitglieder des Landesverbandes Schleswig-Holstein über einen Misstrauensantrag gegen Heilmann ab. Das Ergebnis war 47 Stimmen für Heilmann zu 42 gegen ihn.[4] Heilmann ist seitdem innerhalb der Linken in Schleswig-Holstein umstritten.[5]

According to Mr Heilmann, he was enrolled in a “prolonged military service” from 1985 and 1990 but Spiegel says they are in possession of documents confirming that he was working full time for the STASI:

In den nach dem Fall der Mauer von Bürgerrechtlern gesicherten Gehaltslisten des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit (MfS) ist Heilmann 1989 als hauptamtlicher Mitarbeiter des DDR-Geheimdienstes registriert. Nach Aktenlage war er in der Hauptabteilung Personenschutz tätig, die für die Sicherung und Versorgung der Partei- und Staatsführung zuständig war.

Wikimedia Deutschland are going to file a counter motion tomorrow but it may still take some time before things return to normal. This is not the first time Wikimedia Deutschland have been targetted by legal action. Hubertus Albers a.k.a Atze Schröder last year unsuccessfully intimidated took legal action against then CEO Arne Klempert.

The funny thing is that barely anybody took notice when Spiegel published the information about Mr Heilmann’s alleged STASI activities but it has become more than common knowledge now thanks to his own reactions. I call this a classical example of own goal 2.0.

via RA-Blog and Compyblog

Edit: There is a short article about Mr. Heilmann in the English Wikipedia.

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The purpose of a pardon

Friday, October 31, 2008 at 17:27 | Posted in great britain, Legal | Leave a comment

Agnes Sampson was burned at the stake in East Lothian, Scotland, in 1591. After rounds of torture she confessed to being a witch.

Now that the British justice secretary Jack Straw is being asked to pardon Agnes and more than 400 others executed as witches in England and Scotland before 1735, I am sure that the wrongfully executed people are going to be glad. Surely, they will be able to continue their lives, won’t they? After all, the purpose of a pardon is to correct any injustice.

YouTube and privacy

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 16:53 | Posted in Legal, privacy, youtube | Leave a comment

Viacom, MTV and other litigants give up their demand to get access to all YouTube users’ viewing history, IP’s and user names included. I for one would have been more than annoyed if such details about my usage had been handed over. Not that I have anything to be afraid of copyrightwise or otherwise. I just do not like the idea of somebody peeking over my shoulder. My user name makes me identifiable in the real life as my account includes a number of clips where I appear with my own face and voice. I strongly dislike the idea that somebody could connect my viewing history to my real person.

In an earlier post YouTube explained why they keep IP records in the first place:

Why do we keep this information in the first place? It helps us personalize the YouTube experience, getting you closer to the videos you most want to watch. We have many features on the site that help users discover and share compelling content, and we’re improving the video experience through recommendations, related videos, and personalized directories that help you find meaningful videos.

Well, thanks but no thanks! I am quite happy to “personalize” my YouTube experience all by myself. I have no problem using the search function to find the contents that I am interested in. So if that is the only reason for keeping IP records, I am not convinced.

My day in court

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 19:52 | Posted in Legal, Personal | 3 Comments

I spent most of today in court, sued by the City of Helsinki, also counter suing the city. The issue as such is of little substantial importance but principles sometimes cost as well. Once in a while somebody needs to stand up and defend their rights in the interest of the general public.

My first choice lawyer was unable to attend due to a considerable geographical distance which is why I did not even ask him. I hope he still considers himself as my first choice in German jurisdiction and geographical locations convenient for himself. Not that I would expect to be sued or sue in Germany or nearby.

My local lawyer made a splendid performance. He displayed an outstanding ability to make difference between relevant and irrelevant without failing to point out the most essential arguments of my case. I am glad to say that we had a very good mutual understanding in and outside the courtroom. Half a word or even an unspoken gesture prompted an adequate response in our mutual performance.

The court is expected to issue a ruling within two weeks. Should it be against me, I am very likely to appeal. I presume the same goes for the counterpart.

Apart from the actual court room drama, I suffered a significant loss. My laptop worked fine until near the lunch break. There was a wifi network which allowed me to reply a couple of e-mails and consult my notes during the proceedings. But just before the lunch I detected that the battery was dead although I thought I was using the AC.

I was unable to charge the battery during the break and I just had to make it without my computer during the afternoon. The judge was understanding about the unfortunate fact that I had no access to my preliminary notes when I was in the witness box myself. This might have been a blessing in disguise, though, because the cross examination might have gotten some unnecessary fuel if I had testified everything that was recorded in the memo on my hard drive. 🙂

At home I discovered that not only is the battery empty, in addition to that the laptop is unable to get any cord power. I hope the only reason for this is that the wire looks somewhat suffered. I need to take a trip to computer junkey yard ASAP and hope it is just he cord. Meanwhile I am unable to post screen capture pictures from the Euro 2008 matches as my desktop lacks some of the essential software.

As for the case per say, I prefer to wait out the court ruling before commenting it. I wonder, however, how come a witness managed to produce a third person onto an meeting where I remember that only the witness and myself
were present. And could her testimony have something to do with her unsolicited statement that she would not have been legally entitled to fire me without presence of her boss? Which was not even an issue at the trial.

Are you lesbian or Lesbian?

Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 13:46 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, Legal | Leave a comment
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Activists in the island of Lesbos in Greece are seeking an injunction against Greek lesbians who call themsekves just that (BBC):

The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violates the human rights of the islanders, and disgraces them around the world.

The term lesbian dates back to ancient Greek mythology. Goddes Sappho, a native of Lesbos, expressed her love to women in poetry. Tough as it may be, the word can equally be understood to refer to native islanders (with capital L) and women with a specific sexual orientation (with minor l).

Trying to litigate against usage of any word in desired context is an interference against freedom of speech. I hope this case is going to be thrown out of the court ASAP. With any success in Greek courts, the Lesbians are likely to carry on the case internationally. The last thing EU needs is a directive of sexual orientation terminology.

US judge closes whistle blower site

Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 3:08 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal, USA | 1 Comment
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US federal court has blocked the whistler blower site Wikileaks.org (NYT):

The case in San Francisco was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust. In court papers, the bank said that “a disgruntled ex-employee who has engaged in a harassment and terror campaign” provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws. According to Wikileaks, “the documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.”

Judge Jeffrey S. White granted a permanent injunction ordering domain name registrar Dynadot to disable and lock the domain Wikileaks.org. Apparently, judge White is unaware of how the Internet actually works. While Wikileaks.org is currently not accessible under its regular domain, the site is up and running here, here, here, here and probably in a number of other places as well if you care to do some googling.

The Wikileaks folks should actually thank judge White for the free promotion. Without this ridiculous injunction order thousands of blogs would probably not be linking to them.

Alberta premier threatens to sue local blogger

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 4:53 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Canada, Freedom of speech, internet, Legal | 1 Comment
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Dave Cournoyer is a 24 year old student in University of Alberta. He is also a political blogger affiliated to Alberta Liberals. Dave’s blog Daveberta.ca has a tagline: “alberta politics and other assorted goodies”.

In April 2007, four months after Progressive Conservative leader Edward Stelmach became the premier of Alberta, Dave bought the domain edstelmach.ca which was unregistered at the time. Dave paid 14 Canadian dollars for the registration after which the domain became his property. The CA domain name selection guidelines do not limit the amount of domains registered by one person and limitations on selecting the domain name only apply for registered trademarks.

Dave writes about his usage of the domain:

For the majority of the time I have owned edstelmach.ca, I have had the domain name forward to this blog. A week before I received the letter from Premier Stelmach’s lawyer, I changed the forwarding to the wikipedia biography of another Alberta Premier (who also probably would have not thought to register his domain name).

The other premier was Harry Strom who served as premier between 1968 and 197. He was the last Alberta premier from the Social Credit Party of Alberta.

Rather than making a phone call or sending an e-mail to Dave, premier Stelmach had a high rated law firm, Walsh Wilkins Creighton LLP, send him a letter and threaten him with a lawsuite unless he would

(a) make arrangements with your service provider by December 21, 2007, to
ensure that the Website no longer forwards to the 810g; and
(b) make arrangements to with your service provider and/or registrar to have
the Website registered in our client’s name.

The letter, signed by Tyler S Shandro, suggests that Dave has registered the domain “in bad faith”. Dave is also accused for causing premier Stelmach’s image to suffer and having interfered with his personality, image and name.

What really seems to have made the good premier’s lawyers go bananas are the modest Google ads at Dave’s blog:

Fourth, the 810g is signed up for an advertising program called “Ads by Google”, from
which you receive an income through Google.com’s AdSense program, in which
advertisements are matched to your site’s content, and you earn money. You have
therefore knowingly made a commercial use of our client’s name without his consent.
This constitutes an invasion and impairment of our client’s exclusive right to market his
personality. In which case, our client is entitled to the amount he would reasonably have
received in the market for the permission to use his name.

In an interview for the CBC Dave tells that the Google ads generate about 20 Canadian dollars a month in revenue.

Dave is not going to give up easily:

Though I am still surprised that the +150 staffed Public Affairs Bureau failed to complete the simple task of registering a $14.00 domain name, I am even more surprised that Premier Ed Stelmach’s first reaction in this situation was to threaten to sue an 24-year old blogger and debt ridden University of Alberta student. As a born and bred Albertan, I do not take well to threats from politicians. Therefore I will be seeking advice from legal counsel on how to proceed with this threat.

I am not going to state an opinion about the legal merits of premier Ed Stelmach’s case. My advise to the premier is that he should urgently start thinking about damage control instead of insisting to litigate. Messing with bloggers has seldom payed out. Mr Stelmach has already shot his own foot for far more than 14 dollars and it can only get worse unless he backs off.

A boy named Friday

Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 4:01 | Posted in Legal | Leave a comment
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An Italian court has ruled that a 15 month old boy, who was registered and baptized as Friday, must be re-registered as Gregory after the saint whose feast day he was born on. The parents liked the sound of the name Friday and there was no problem at the initial registering. Five months later a city hall clerk took attention of the unusual name and turned the case to a court of law.

“I think it is ridiculous they even opened a case about it,” the family’s lawyer, Paola Rossi, told Reuters by telephone from the northern city of Genoa Tuesday.

The tribunal said it was protecting the child from being the butt of jokes and added that it believed the name would hinder him from developing “serene interpersonal relationships.”

The  Germano family appealed the ruling but they lost the case. The mother of the child says the boy is going to be called Friday no matter what the courts may say. He may just have to sign official documents with the name imposed by court at a more mature age.

Could they not make a complaint against the court on grounds of racism? If they had chosen to name the boy Robinson (or even Robinson Crusoe for that matter) there would probably not have been a legal problem.

Headline theaft

Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 0:26 | Posted in Blogosphere, Legal | 2 Comments
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Content thieves never seem to run out of methods how they can exploit the content created by bloggers. Thomas has a problem with a scrupulous Monsieur and now I seem to have gotten somebody riding on my back whose method may not be formally illegal.

This unperson seems to have made about 10 posts so far titled with the headline of one of my posts and the title of this blog. The judicial beauty is that the contents of those posts is random rubbish but each of them link to a regular spam site when clicked from Google Reader. Thus, I can not make a claim of my post being reproduced, just that my good name (that of my blog) is being abused to get search engine attention to a trash site.

Legal advice is appreciated although I may be late to pay due to legal problems I am currently having outside the web.

Authorize my ass

Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 16:31 | Posted in Freedom of speech, internet, it, Legal | 2 Comments
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Inventor-link web site has a weird understanding of freedom of speech. Their Privacy and User Agreement suggests that linking to the web site without their permission is prohibited:

By using this site you agree and understand that the HTML code, look, feel, content, company name, logo, text, and any likeness or derivative of such content is the sole property of Inventor-Link LLC and may not be used in any manner without the expressed written permission of Inventor-Link LLC. Furthermore, we strictly prohibit any links and or other unauthorized references to our web site without our permission.

Inventor-link is represented by the law firm Dozier Internet Law who have similar terms at their web site. The firm goes even further than that. They are trying to forbid viewing the HTML code of their web site:

We also own all of the code, including the HTML code, and all content. As you may know, you can view the HTML code with a standard browser. We do not permit you to view such code since we consider it to be our intellectual property protected by the copyright laws. You are therefore not authorized to do so.

Authorize my ass! No way can this sort of limitations of free speech be enforced.

The whole story can be read at Consumer Law & Policy Blog.

Criminal record for YouTube libel

Friday, August 24, 2007 at 20:47 | Posted in crime, Finland, Legal, youtube | Leave a comment

As I noted for a while ago, a 15 year old school kid in eastern Finland was charged for libel after his teacher refused to accept his apology and insisted on criminal charges be brought up against the kid. The boy had posted a video in YouTube featuring the teacher singing at a school party. The video was entitled “Karaoke at the mental hospital” whereby the teacher’s name appeared with insinuation that the performer was a mental patient.

A court in Nurmes has now found the teenager guilty of libel. He was sentenced to a fine of 90 €. He is additionally to pay a damage compensation of 800 € to the teacher and pay 2000 € of legal expenses.

So the kid is to pay 2890 € of which the 90 € fine is critical for his future. The court could have opted to find him guilty and impose the compensations be paid but leave him unpunished. Apparently the court did not think that repent, an apology, a public trial and compensations of 2800 € were a punishment enough. They chose to add up the 90 € fine just to make sure that the kid gets a criminal record.

via Janne Saarikko

Update (5th September): Helsingin Sanomat writes that the boy’s lawyer has filed an appeal on the court verdict. He is asking the higher court to reject the criminal verdict and overturn the damage compensation of 800 €. As a secondary motion, the lawyer is asking that his client, if found guilty, be left without a punishment.

Arkansas lawmakers fucked up

Saturday, August 18, 2007 at 22:06 | Posted in Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Arkansas legislature seems to have screwed up the state law intended to allow teenagers under 18 to get married with parental consent in case of pregnancy. The law which took effect on 31st July 2007 says:

In order for a person who is younger than eighteen (18) years of age and who is not pregnant to obtain a marriage license, the person must provide the county clerk with evidence of parental consent to the marriage.

The word “not” seems to allow minors at any age to marry if their parents agree. This was obviously not the intention of the legislature. Since the legislature is adjourned until January (I wonder if 2009 at MyWay is not a print error) Senator Sue Madison is calling for a special session:

I am concerned about pedophiles coming to Arkansas to find parents who are willing to sign a very young child’s consent.

The legislature obviously needs to do something but I just wonder if deleting the word “not” is enough. The present edition at least allows an under aged father to get married with consent of his parents but just deleting the “not” would probably allow the mother but ban the father to get married. Also, what if the baby is already born? In such case the teenage mother would no longer be pregnant and accordingly not allowed to enter the marriage.

I do not know about Arkansas but it is customary in a number of parliamentary assemblies allover the World that bills are thoroughly examined and analyzed by legal and linguistic experts before they are presented for approval in chambers. Everybody makes mistakes but collective mistakes of a legislative body are something to be avoided at any cost.

via RA-Blog

Futile censorship

Sunday, July 22, 2007 at 19:51 | Posted in absurd, censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, Journalism, Legal, Press freedom | Leave a comment
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A court order in Spain issued by judge Juan del Olmo triggered a police operation to impose a seizure of all copies of the Spanish weekly satirical magazine El Jueves. The El Jueves web site has been down all weekend but I do not know if this is connected with the seizure. Judge del Olmo ruled that this caricature featuring Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia “struck at the honour and the dignity of the people represented”:

In the text the Crown Prince, while banging his wife, says that if she becomes pregnant, it would be the closest to work he will ever have been during his life. The statement makes fun about the Spanish government’s plan to fight declining birth rate by paying 2500 € to parents of every fresh born baby. El Jueves is known for their republican sympathies.

Insulting the Royal Family is prosecutable in Spain. While judge del Olmo obviously had no choice but to grant the court order, I wonder if he and the prosecutors seeking the seizure realize that in this day and age, trying to censor something, especially something which is witty and funny, is bound to backfire. This is the most certain way to guarantee that the cartoon is going to be spread far beyond the boarders of Spain while the printed copies would probably have been forgotten within a week without these futile attempts of censorship.

As the Spanis paper El Mundo puts it:

“The picture, which had been seen by thousands of people, was posted on numerous Web sites in Spain and abroad and will now have been seen by tens of millions of people. Not even the Crown’s worst enemy could have had that effect.”

Sources: The Ink Blog, Aftermath News and Helsingin Sanomat

Illegal to brake the law

Saturday, July 21, 2007 at 16:46 | Posted in Legal, Not serious, USA | Leave a comment
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I read in the Washington Post that US president George W Bush has signed an executive order saying that the CIA shall respect international law when interrogating so called terrorist suspects:

In an executive order lacking any details about actual interrogation techniques, Bush said the CIA program will now comply with a Geneva Conventions prohibition against “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

That was something unforeseen. In fact, I happen to think that all governments and parliaments in the World should follow suit. Why not pass a legislation making it illegal to break the law? 😛

Finnish school kid charged for libel

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 21:17 | Posted in Finland, Legal | 2 Comments

YLE reports that a 15 year old school boy in Finland is facing libel charges. He posted in YouTube a video featuring a teacher singing at a school party. The video was entitled “Karaoke at the mental hospital”. The teacher’s name appeared at the post.

Having taken down the video, the youngster apologized and said he regretted his posting. The teacher was not happy with the apology and decided to press charges. The prosecutor has now decided to charge the kid for libel. A trial is expected to take place in September.

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