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Friday, November 13, 2009

Convicted Murderer Sues Wikipedia, Demands Removal Of Name

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.

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."

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