Wed, Oct. 08, 2008

Help the Criminals, Orderly

CK - Washington.   Instead of doing away with the ill-conceived identification requirement for active users of the Internet, the Berlin Department of Justice provides a guide on compliance with the underlying statute, TMG, and the suggested style of publishing identificying information on web sites. On October 7, 2008, the Attorney General also issued, with some pride in her lines, a press release to the requirement which Germans call Impressum.

The department's Guide to the Identification Requirement, published only in German, links to the statute which establishes the requirement for commercial users of the Internet and three sub-guides on (a) why the identification is sought; (b) how to meet the requirement; and (c) what more one can do, such as using seals of organized approval.

The identification requirements is hotly contested in German courts but the rationale is not. For the first reason, the Attorney General calls her guidance non-binding. The second aspect relates to the purported benefit of consumer protection on the mistaken belief that fraudulent vendors would properly identify themselves and Internet user information would not fall more easily victim to phishers, stalkers and other criminals by way of forced disclosure of personal, contact, tax, corporate, supervisory authority and banking information.

Chilling free speech is another topic on which A.G. Zypries remains silent. The identification requirement is generally acknowledged to have extraterritorial effects and is construed by courts to also cover certain non-commercial activities on the Internet.

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