Sun, Sep. 14, 2008

Discretion in Privacy Law

CK - Washington.   The Dr. Bahr Collection publishes a Hamburg ruling of June 6, 2008 in the matter 324 0 1069/07 on the obligation of Internet publishers to suppress the name of a defendant in a criminal matter. Under German privacy and personality laws, a convicted defendant may be entitled to have any mention of a conviction expunged from Internet publications, just as it would be expunged from criminal records after the statutory periods.

In the June decision, the court analyzed the requirements in a situation involving a defendant in a current matter. It found the public interest in reporting on the case and the defendant to prevail over the privacy interest of the defendant. As a result, there is no obligation on online publishers to suppress the name of a defendant or to limit publication of a name to the initials -- at least while the convicted criminal remains in prison.

The constitutional protection of privacy, known as Persönlichkeitsrecht, is protected by art. 1 of the German federal constitution. It may outweigh the public interest in minor criminal cases. Therefore, publishing the full name a person may lead to a civil liability when the person is convicted of parking at an expired meter.

The new decision is in line with a December 18, 2007 ruling in the matter 7 U 77/07 involving the publication of the full name of a murderer after he had completed his prison term. Generally, German courts and media do not publish the full name of defendants, although that is only a tradition and such publication is not prohibited.

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