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German ISP May Block Access to Google

A German court has been asked to block the search engine for displaying adult content without age verification, something prohibited under German law.
German ISP May Block Access to Google
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Dec 10, 2007 4:00 PM PST    Text size: 
FRANKFURT — A German adult website operator has filed for expedited proceedings in the district court in Frankfurt to force the German ISP Arcor to block Google.de and Google.com in order to prevent the display of adult images without age verification, which is prohibited under German law.

The request was filed by Huch Medien GmbH, the company that owns and operates AmateurStar.de, according to the news site Heise.de.

In its filing, Huch Medien reportedly said it would not simply sit back and watch as Google’s image search displayed pornographic images to users of all ages, including “clearly prohibited animal pornography.”

Huch Medien reported the issue to Arcor directly on Nov. 20, according to reports, and waited to see if the ISP would take measures to block Google. After receiving no response from Arcor to the original report or to a subsequent formal cease and desist letter sent by the company’s attorneys, Huch Medien took the matter to court.

Huch Medien Executive Director Tobias Huch said that he’s merely trying to get the German legal system to clarify the scope of the liability exemptions offered to ISPs under the German Telemedia Act.

“The court needs to tell us whether the German way is the only way,” Huch said.

Huch asserted that since Germany blocks sites like YouPorn.com — as the court ordered Arcor to do in October — then the country theoretically should block all websites that violate relevant German and/or European Union law.

If Germany is going to maintain such a legal posture and engage in blocking sites in widespread fashion, then “we should not complain when China blocks a large number of websites,” Huch said.

According to German attorney Daniel Koetz, the only European member of the 1st Amendment Lawyers Association and a bar-certified specialist in copyright and media law, the German law requiring age verification applies to all websites that can be accessed from Germany.

Koetz told XBIZ that the Telemedia Act requires “all sites bearing content presumably harmful to minors such as pornography to have an age-verification system.”

“Such an age-verification system has to ‘secure that minors cannot access the site,’” Koetz said. “Such is the written law.”

Koetz said that under the law, German authorities and courts only deem an age-verification system to be secure if the system forces end users to have personal contact with a third party who verifies their age.

“[It is] just like when entering an adult bookstore; the owner sees the customer, and the customer is over 18 years old,” Koetz said. “So, we have a ‘PostIdent-Verfahren’ which is an identification-process via your post office. You go there with a form, clerk sees the form and your passport, acknowledges your being over 18 and there you go.”

One of the problems with that system, Koetz said, is “who wants to go through all that hassle to enter a porn site, and who wants postal clerks to know you’re a pervert watching porn?”

Koetz said that as a result of the law, traffic to German porn sites is low because “everybody goes to other countries’ sites.”

Those foreign sites, however, are subject to being blocked by German ISPs by order of the courts, Koetz said — as Huch has requested that the Frankfurt court to Arcor to do with Google.

Koetz said that Huch’s request was filed in order to demonstrate “the perversion of all this.”

“Germany does not have a porn problem — it has a freedom-of-information-via-the-Internet problem,” Koetz said.

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