Lawyers: German porn ruling good for ISPs

A German court's ruling yesterday overturning pornography-related charges against ex-CompuServe manager Felix Somm is good news for Germany's Internet industry, Somm's defence lawyers said.

In a statement, his lawyers welcomed the Munich District Court's ruling that Somm was not guilty of spreading pornographic materials over the Internet. The move also creates "some legal certainty," for Internet access providers, they said.

The court yesterday overturned a 1998 ruling by a lower Munich court that gave Somm a two-year suspended sentence and fined him 100,00 marks ($US52,862). That judge held Somm responsible for pornographic material found in 1995 in CompuServe newsgroups.

That ruling, which stunned the international community, put a shadow over the legal position of online service providers in Germany, and was highly criticized as having little basis under German law.

In the case, Somm's lawyers were able to convince the District Court judge that Somm had no technical means to remove the offending material.

The judgment has fully rehabilitated Somm's reputation, said Ulrich Sieber, one of Somm's lawyers, in a separate analysis of the case also released yesterday. The ruling has also "removed the relationship of tension" between Germany's criminal justice system and the Internet, which had served to actually impede the fight against Internet crime, Sieber said.

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