Globalization hits Bochum

Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:31 | Posted in Germany | Leave a comment
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As Nokia closes a cell phone factory in Bochum, Germany, German politicians boycott Nokia phones. Nice Ventures Blog thinks that the politicians are more concerned of winning votes in this year’s regional elections than creating favorable long term conditions for high-tech jobs:

What surprises me about this all is the fact that people seem to hang on to jobs that can in its majority only be assembly jobs so requiring low qualification. German politicians seem to fight constantly for jobs such as in coal mining that have no real future. They in addition lack clear planning and investment into higher education and research. It is easier and faster to jump at such topics in particular when there are state elections like in Germany right now than trying to find future solutions.

The Financial Times Germany has a survey about the boycott showing more or less equal opinion between three options: effective pressure (35 %), activism (29 %) and nonsense (36 %).

Sad as it is for the plant workers in Bochum, they are being hit by the globalization, just as Nokia workers in Finland were when jobs were created in Germany. Nokia is no better nor worse than any other successful multi national. All of them locate their production where the cost is lowest and profits largest.

As for the boycott, I have a hard time imagining which cell phone manufacturer would be ethical enough not to give reason for a boycott in some corner of the World. Maybe the World would be better off altogether without cell phones. I have not used one for two years so I know what I am talking about.

New Yorker apologizes

Friday, December 21, 2007 at 18:06 | Posted in Estonia | Leave a comment
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As I wrote yesterday, The German clothes retailer New Yorker opened a store in Tallinn a couple of weeks ago but failed to recruit sufficient with Estonian speaking personnel. The store apologizes for any inconvenience they may have caused their customers by failing to guarantee customer service in Estonian at all times, Ärileht writes.

According to district manager Anja Toppe, New Yorker uses German personnel as a temporary emergency solution. New Yorker has a policy of sending German personnel to assist the regular personnel in new stores but their function is normally to advice and assist, not serve clients. Toppe says that New Yorker was encountered with unexpected problems with recruiting Estonian personnel: they had not sufficient with “good applicants”.

At the moment the store has nine Germans and seven Estonians on their payroll. Estonian speaking sales personnel work in every shift. New Yorker hopes to be able to improve the situation as soon as possible.

Wie bitte?

Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 8:44 | Posted in Estonia, languages | 3 Comments
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The German clothes retailer New Yorker recently opened a store in Tallinn but failed to recruit local personnel, Estonian TV reports. Most of the sales persons speak fluent German and wooden English but no Estonian at all. After a number of customer complaints the governmental Language Inspection detected that only seven of the 21 employees are capable of serving customers in Estonian.

The New Yorker store apparently opened before recruiting suitable local sales personnel. The Language Inspection issued an injunction saying that New Yorker must bring their operation into  accord with the Estonian Language Act by tomorrow.

Domain as bonus

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 17:05 | Posted in Germany, internet, Legal | Leave a comment
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RA-Blog writes that the Federal Finance Court (Bundesfinanzhof) in Germany has ruled that the cost of a  web domain transfer is not deductable as business expenses of the company buying the domain. A company bought a domain in 2000 for 7500 then German marks plus a VAT of 1200 marks. The Federal Finance Court says that the VAT is deductable but the 7500 marks is to be considered as the company’s profit.

Could this have any consequence in the domain market? Probably so. From now on you will not buy a domain. You pay for web consulting services whereby a free domain is included as a bonus.

Wal-Mart has gone nuts

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 23:21 | Posted in internet, Web tools | 5 Comments
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The conventional wisdom says that if you want to sell something to a lot of people it is in the best interest of your business to make sure that all potential customers have access to your store. You are not turning down customers who have a brown hair or blue eyes or choose to wear straight pants rather than blue jeans. A brown haired blue eyed person in straight pants would be offended if you refused to serve them on those grounds and rightly so. They would be less than likely to return later even if you decided to change your mind about how you want your customers to look.

Wal-Mart would not even dream of turning down blue eyed customers from their physical stores. That would be fatal for their business and they know it. Wal-Mart would never have become the successful business they are with that kind of customer selection.

It is that much more astonishing to detect that Wal-Mart Video Downloads refuses to do business with customers who choose to access their store using any browser other than Internet Explorer:

Unsupported Browser

We’re sorry …
Our website requires the browser Internet Explorer version 6 or higher. It appears that you are using Firefox, Safari, or another browser that Wal-Mart Video Downloads doesn’t currently support. Click here to get Internet Explorer for free from Microsoft.

Thank You

That is the message you get if you try to approach Wal-Mart’s video download store using a web browser like Firefox, Opera, Safari or Konqueror. Just as smart as welcoming customers in blue jeans and telling everybody else to go and get themselves a pair before entering their store.

It is obvious that Wal-Mart Video Downloads do not want my money and the money of hundreds of millions of other people. I can live with that, no big deal for me. I can get my movies elsewhere. I do not need Wal-Mart and if they think they can afford to insult me then so be it.

I am just being a bit curious. I would like to know what they were thinking when they did it. Or were they thinking at all, as I suspect? Looks to me that Wal-Mart has gone nuts.

Edit: If you read Estonian, Kristjan has a good article about this topic.

Edit: The site seems to work with Firefox now (26th February 2007). I am still not going to do business with them. The damage was already done.

A week of reality

Saturday, July 22, 2006 at 11:50 | Posted in Bureaucracy, eu | Leave a comment
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Günter Verheugen, the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Enterprise and Industry, is sending 350 senior EU bureaucrats out to small and medium size businesses to get a week of “Enterprize Experience”, Jyllands-Posten writes. 50 senior civil servants should attend the programme by the end of this year and by 2009 all 350 bureaucrats in EU’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry should have had their week in the real life.

Political consultant Søren Friis of the Danish Trade and Service employers is going to help find Danish businesses to accomodate some of the bureaucrats.

The purpose of the programme is said to give the EU bureaucrats a chance to understand the real problems of the businesses. But what if they will find out that they are the problem?

Working girls allowed to advertise in German tabloids

Friday, July 14, 2006 at 9:42 | Posted in Germany, Legal, Media, Press freedom | 3 Comments
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The German Supreme Court has ruled that ads for sexual services in tabloid papers are legal as long as they are not disturbing or promote explicit sexual services in a shocking way. Prostitution is legal in Germany.

Some tabloid papers had been sued by owners of a bar that provides prostitutes and their clients a chance to establish contacts. While the complaint was motivated with public order legislation, the actual reason behind it could easily be quessed as a fear of competiton for their business.

As this lengthy article in brandeins Online explains in detail, small ads by prostitutes are an essential source of revenue both for the prostitutes and the papers. These ads are estimated to make up 10-15 %, sometimes even 20 % of the tabloids’ ad sales. A prostitute could easily increase her business by 400 € with an ad of 70 €.

The article points out that the sex ads are sometimes in sharp conflict with the editorial contents of the papers. There are also detailed lists of allowed and forbidden expressions. Interestingly, an ad saying “I want to fu.. you” would not be allowed in most papers while “I want to ..ck you” would be no problem.

via lawblog and elbelaw

Peeking behind the Fischerwerke scene

Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 13:57 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, hyperlink, internet, Legal, social | 5 Comments
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The 86 year old Artur Fischer is the founder of Fischerwerke. The corporation’s turnover last year was 457 million € and the family’s private assets are estimated to be around 250 million €. The corporation has been run since 1980 by the founder’s son, 55 year old Klaus Fischer.

The family’s daughter, the 58 year old Mrs. Margot Fischer-Weber used to work for her father and brother. She was born with a severe hearing disable and was unable to complete her school education. She joined the family enterprise as an employee at the age of 15 in 1963 and served the family for 36 years.

Mrs. Fischer-Weber abandoned her inheritance rights in favor of her brother in 1984. She describes the occasion when the act was signed and sealed by a notary in her web site. She says that she was not in position to understand the true meaning of the document she was presented to. Due to her disability, she was unable to properly hear what was being said and was provided with no legal advice. She says that she signed the document because she trusted her father.

Mrs. Fischer-Weber’s web site www.fischerfratze.de also includes a detailed and documented description of the circumstances, under which her employment came to an end. Without going into details I can tell you that it is not a flattering story about this stinking rich family in the hi-tech business. The site is entitled (in my free translation) “Sharks and other Fis(c)h(er)” and the domain name fischerfratze.de stands for fischer grimace.

The family’s lawyers sent a letter to Margot Fischer-Weber on Monday 12th June 2006 demanding the site be taken off line by Wednesday 14th June. In opposite case, the family threatens to sue their daughter for slander or libel. The site is on line as I type this on Thursday the 15th June.

The story has been covered by several German blogs: law blog, Mein Parteibuch, Basic Thinking, ElbeBlawg and others). Most of them do not link to Mrs. Fischer-Weber’s site because of the absurd German court practices. A hyperlink may make the linking site responsible of the contents in the disputed target site which means that bloggers under German jurisdiction would risk being sued by this family with much more wealth than social conscience.

Business as usual

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 9:32 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, internet, Legal | Leave a comment
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Marcel Bartels writes that he has signed a legal document to satisfy the real estate business man Andreas Kodsi who sued him for this blog post. Marcel must make substantial cuts in the disputed and a couple of other posts. He also commits not to link to or spread information published in the domain Gomopa.net.

As I wrote here and here, Mr Kodsi won a trial in Hamburg against the German branch of Google. The court ruled that Google must manually edit all search result previews on searches related to him. Fighting Google is one thing but why would a millionaire real estate dealer sue a “little guy”?

The Internet is a powerful tool. It gives the ordinary guy access to global information in a way that we could not even dream about for some 15 years ago. It also provides businesses an opportunity to fulfill marketing strategies that are cheaper, more flexible and more effective than ever before. If you want to spread your information, the Web is the place to spread it.

Now, why would a succesful business man explicitly mouth gag a blogger from publishing info and link to a business forum whose goal is to expose and object rip-off and cheat? Why would an honest business man force the very mirror of the Web, Google, to filter what is reflected in the mirror about him? Would it be because many of those search results include words and expressions like Schrottimobilien, Mitternachtsnotare and Immobilienbetrug? Or is there a major conspiracy going on in the World Wide Web with participation of the Google, business forums and bloggers against this unfortunate business man?

Lawyer Renate G Binder explains here some of the aggressive marketing methods in the real estate market. These have caused many people in Germany to make hasty and ill informed decisions and buy heavily over rated real estate objects, so called junk properties. A more thorough presentation of the theme is here.

While the Binder § Beier legal web site does not mention names of businesses that are known or suspected to use the methods they describe, those methods are remarkably similar to methods connected to Andreas Kodsi and his company Die Dienstleister by Gomopa.net. Gomopa.net is the domain that Mr. Kodsi’s lawyers mouth gagged Marcel from linking to or publishing their information. Why would an honest business man want to do that?

Marcel Bartels can not afford a legal battle against an angry multi millionaire. German websites do not dare publish his name. Google is forced to venture their integrity by introducing same sort of a censorship in Germany as they and others conduct in China.

Is this a bad dream? Or is it just business as usual?

Self appointed archivist

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 4:53 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, internet, Legal | 4 Comments
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How would you like to earn money with your blog? That question must have slipped through the thoughts of many bloggers. To attract serious ad revenue you would need a lot of quality contents. What if somebody else wrote all those posts for you?

Christian Mielke in Brandenburg, Germany must have been thinking somewhere along those lines when he got the idea of starting his Archiv Blog. The description of the “archive” explicitly spells out that the blog does not publish any self produced contents but “archives” posts of German language blogs. Mr. Mielke presents his blog as a “free backup service” for German bloggers funded by ads. Apparently, the posts are collected by a spider harvesting RSS feeds of the blogs.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mielke forgot to do his legal homework. He did not find it necessary to ask the bloggers if they want him to “back up” their blogs. He seems to have thought that an opt out link in his site would be enough to cover any copyright infringement claims.

Many German bloggers were less than amused to detect that someone was reproducing their posts in order to make money with them. One of them was long time blogger and criminal lawyer Udo Vetter in Düsseldorf. He sent Mr. Mielke a friendly e-mail which could best be decribed as legal advise pro bono.

Mr. Vetter points out that he wants to be asked first if somebody wants to reproduce his blog posts. He also advises Mr. Mielke that the announced intention to seek revenue makes the copyright infringement aggravating and infringing copyright is also prosecutable in Germany. Mr. Vetter finishes his letter by demanding his posts to be removed within 24 hours. Any correspondence after the deadline would not be cheap for Mr. Mielke. The posts disappeared from Archive Blog almost immediately.

Sven Scholtz in Niederwerrn delivers his claim of removal in a post in his blog. He makes the ironic assumption that there would be no need to mail his pretentions as Mr. Mielke would surely read the posts he “archives”. Mr. Scholtz sets a deadline to Wednesday May 10th and promises to send a bill to Mr. Mielke if he still detects his posts in Archive Blog on Wednesday. At this moment, less than 24 hours before the deadline, the posts are still there.

What may have looked like a lucrative chance to earn some money with small effort is about to turn into a nightmare for Christian Mielke. The legality of his activities would be at least questionable in almost any country and there is no doubt that this sort of “archiving” is highly unethical. But I am very much surprised that anybody would try to pull out something like this in Germany.

As I explained in this post in context of the suing practices of Andreas Kodsi, the German jurisdiction makes the bloggers responsible also for the web contents that they link to. Just imagine what flood of lawsuites Mr. Mielke could be facing by re-publishing loads of blog posts apparently without reading them. Unlike Sven Scholtz, I am not going to pretend that I would believe Mr. Mielke to be reading a line of what he reproduces.

All posts of Mein Parteibuch seem to have disappeared from Blog Archiv. I do not know whether Marcel Bartels took the initiative to removing them or if Mr. Mielke possibly discovered by himself that re-publishing Marcel’s posts is a risky business since they tend to attract all sorts of lawsuites. Like this one or this one or this one.

If there is anything to be learned from this incident it would be that there is no fast track to earning money with your blog. If you want to give it a try, go ahead but please remember that you need to write your own posts. Bloggers are also authors and their work is covered by the same copyright regulations as the work of all authors.

Update: The Blog-Archiv seems to have been closed on Tuesday morning. I take it that Christer Mielke understood that he was on a thin ice and came to the right conclusion. This goes to show that bloggers are awake and trying to pull their leg does not pay. I do not want to speculate whether the site was started in the first place because of bad judgement or bad intentions but I am glad that Mr. Mielke did the decent thing.

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