November 16, 2009
Wikipedia sued by convicted killers
German men seek to have their names erased from entries on online encyclopedia
Two men convicted of a notorious murder in Germany are reportedly suing Wikimedia Foundation, the American organisation that runs Wikipedia, seeking to have their names removed from entries about the murder.
The two men were famously convicted in 1990 of killing the German actor Walter Sedlmayr. Relying upon German laws that dictate that criminals names can be withheld from reports after a prison sentence has been served and a set period expired, they have successfully obtained orders from the German courts that their names be removed from online coverage in Germany. They assert that the same laws apply to English language articles on Wikipedia.
If German law is held to apply to the American website then the case could have significant ramifications for websites worldwide. Jennifer Granick, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is quoted by the Guardian as saying that "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."