Jan 20, 2006

Wiki news: the Tron chapter

It figures. I get a little bit behind on current happenings, and an interesting story has to pass me by :)

German Wikipedia was shut down for a few days by German court: big thumbs down for Germany, apparently joining China in an attempt to silence the reality (if only for a three days). Although it's nice to see that the judges had enough wit to lift the shut down orders, it should have never been issued in the first place. Let's hope this never again happens: imagine if just suing about some detail could couse a Wiki to be shut down.

If the parents of the deceased hacker 'Tron' wanted to keep the low-down status, they should've known better then to go against Wikipedia. The English wiki was never affected, as it is not a subject to any German verdict anyway, and the news buzz (and blog buzz) generated by their actions surely will have an opposite effect to what they wanted. For other interesting indicators, note that the page did not even exist on en-wiki before the shut down of de-wiki.

Wikipedia Signpost has it's own story on that, of course. Note it already has cost us at least 500 euro to deal with this... well, legal vandlism, I guess. It's really annoying to see that money donated by people of good will around the world has to be spent on such trivial issues. Update: as has been pointed out in the comments (tnx!), the 500 euro is a bail amount, thus refundable. Other costs are presently unknown AFAICT.

Conclusion: if you want to gain fame, try to be anonymous by acting as the elephant in the porcelain shop (that's a Polish proverb, btw).

On a related note, I wish I could read German.

Also, Wikipedia Signpost has an interestign article on constructive reactions to being slandered on Wiki.

TTags: , , ,


Anonymous said...

I wish you could read german, too. Because if you could, you would stop writing wrong and inflamatory posts.

First: The incident had not cost 500 EUR yet. Thats just some kind of "bail".

Second: There is no reason to bash germany here. Germany has a highly developed juridical system, and what we are seeing here is just a case of a temporary injunction. As in all other countries, including the US, such injunctions are granted without much checking on the legal background. So this is no defect in the german way, but only the sign of a working legal system. Due to historic reasons germany (the nazi stuff and denial of the holocaust, you know) is cautious (but not oppressive!) in free speech issues and does not rang free speech over everything else (a viewpoint which is, by the way, in the US and other so called free speech countries on decline anyway), but tries to balance free speech and honorable interests of others.

So please do yourself a favor and get a bit of background information before bashing a country. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Oh and another note: Stop bashing the parents, too. It seems that the parents are still grieving over the lost of a son and where very very badly advised by their lawyer and someone from the german chaos computer club.

The real background seems to be a novel which uses the real name of their son for a fictous story. This is outrageous, and i can understand the angryness of the parents. They protested with the publishers, but were told to fuck themself, because wikipedia does publish the name as well. This is next to no argument, but it seems that their lawyer is so clueless that he bought that argument, and targeted wikipedia instead of the publishers.

The lawyer is working free for the parents and now you see what free legal advise is worth. The parents have been really misguided by some fucking morons.

Piotr Konieczny said...

First. Good point about bail, I stand corrected. Although I wonder if the lawyers are working for free (are there state-appointed lawyers in Germany? I'd guess so...). Btw, can you tell me what the 250,000E price here is about?

Second. There is reason to bash Germany. I accept your defense arguments, and I noted that the judges have reversed their at least part of their injunction (about taking the site offline) in three days. Nonetheless the fact remains that the German legal system allowed such a useful site to be put offline in the first place. So either the ruling was an unlucky fluke in the first place, or Germany legal system may allow some group of people to swap it with various cases shutting de-wiki down for a long, long time.

Third. Good point again about the parents being not the only responsible side here and the lawyer apparently being irresponsible. Ignorantia juris non excusat, or in this case, just logical consequences of going against the 20-something most popular site on the net. And yes, I'd expect the parents - or even the lawyer - might not have know what Wikipedia really was. So ignorance costs.

I can symphatize with their greviance. Losing a child is a terrible thing, something that those of us who haven't experienced it probably cannot express in words. But greviance, and emotions are again not that useful excuse. As was pointed out, their son's name was a public knowledge in Germany for a few years now. I do agree it would be more ethical to ask for permission to use his name in a book, but if it was indeed public knowledge, then using it is not really unethical. Not changing it, after the parents requested it, is however more unethical, and here I would condemn the author - although not on legal, but on moral grounds.

Algeroth said...

Nonetheless the fact remains that the German legal system allowed such a useful site to be put offline in the first place.

So, we can shut down useless sites but this kind of action is unethical in case of 20-something most popular site on the net?

Piotr Konieczny said...

The more useful a thing is, the bigger the crime of interfering with it is. Isn't this logical?

martin the great said...

The law should not distinguish between the "useful" and the "useless". The law's broken, the site goes down, whether it is some half-assed Geocities account or microsoft.com.

And the parents' wish should be respected and the name taken down. I don't care if it's a violation of free speech, if there is a legal apparatus that allows it, then it shall be done.

Piotr Konieczny said...

Law uber alles? No, thank you. I believe law should be subordinate of mankind, not the other way around.

martin the great said...

Oh, clever. Let's overrule the law just because we think we're right.

You don't seriously believe what you just wrote, do you?

Piotr Konieczny said...

Martin, tell me:
* who creates the law?
* and for what purpose?

martin the great said...

Who? The people. Purpose? Protection.

The publication of Tron's full name caused harm (other than physical) to his parents. They invoked the law in order to protect themselves. The law demanded the name taken down. I don't think it was necessary to bring down the whole server (a wrong one, to boot), but I agree that the name should be taken down. But no, we have this magical phrase 'free speech', which apparently overrides any law, 'cause, y'know, it's right for the people to know!

Piotr Konieczny said...

The only problem with your argument is that his name was not private in the first place. Tron, by his involvement in the hacker ogranization, became a public figure. And his parents with their butchered attempts to make the world forget about him have done the opposite, in addition compunding the damage their kid has done to the society by shutting down de-Wiki for a few days.

martin the great said...

I don't see how that changes things, unless he actually came out and said "Hi, I'm Tron, my real name is Brian M. and I'm a hacker". If there was an unauthorized publication of Tron's full name, the parents (or Tron, were he still alive) would have the full right to demand it taken down.

Besides, I bet you couldn't care less if the site in question wasn't Wikipedia.

Piotr Konieczny said...

I am not a lawyer, but if you are a hacker, get sentenced to jail, and author a fairly interesting and popular thesis, you are no longer a private citizen. The defense argues that he was a public figure for many years - and it is for the courts and lawyers to decide who was right.

And I'd care if it was any site, although there is a difference regarding which site you 'take down' - same as whether you kick a can or blow up a building.

Update: t is worth noting that the domain wikipedia.de has never been used as a means of accessing the German language Wikipedia, which has always resided at http://de.wikipedia.org/, and that, despite media reports to the contrary, German language Wikipedia was never closed or inaccessible in Germany.

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