Freedom of expression vs right to be forgotten?

By EDRi · November 18, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Das Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung vs. das Recht vergessen zu werden? |]

A cease and desist letter sent by a Germany law firm to the English
Wikipedia asked for a name to be removed from several articles. The law firm
is representing a convicted murderer, released on parole.

The case looks more complicated, as the US have no law on the personality
right, but a strong US First Amendment that protects the freedom
of expression. But the German law firm considers that the Wikipedia page on
Walter Sedlmayr that was murdered in 1990 needs to delete the name of the
3murderers fifteen years after their conviction. The law company convinced
the German version of Wikipedia to delete their names, but not the English

Mike Godwin, the legal council of Wikimedia, indicated to the law company
that the Foundation does not operate nor have assets in Germany. He also
added: “we are interested in your effort to suppress content on the
English-language version of Wikipedia about the convicted murderer who is
your client. It is our hope that you will approve our publication of your
demand letters, which we think will inspire donors to give us more money
during our annual fundraising drive.”

The law firm has also challenged an Austrian ISP that has published the
names. The Austrian courts might not solve the case so easily and it might
be referred to the European Court of Justice.

Jennifer Granick from EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Foundation commented:
“A foreign power should not be able to censor publications in the United
States, regardless of whether doing so suits the country’s domestic law.
(…) 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.”

Convicted Murderer To Wikipedia: Shhh! (10.11.2009)

Decision in the Sedlmayr case postponed (only in German, 10.11.2009)

Stopp and Stopp; German law firm attempts to censor Wikipedia (1.11.2009);_German_law_firm_attempts_to_censor_Wikipedia

Two German Killers Demanding Anonymity Sue Wikipedia’s Parent (12.11.2009)