From the New York Times, an interesting case balancing the right to privacy vs. free speech:
Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber became infamous for killing a German actor in 1990. Now they are suing to force Wikipedia to forget them.
The legal fight pits German privacy law against the American First Amendment. German courts allow the suppression of a criminal’s name in news accounts once he has paid his debt to society, noted Alexander H. Stopp, the lawyer for the two men, who are now out of prison.
“They should be able to go on and be resocialized, and lead a life without being publicly stigmatized” for their crime, Mr. Stopp said. “A criminal has a right to privacy, too, and a right to be left alone.”
Buttressed by a German privacy law, the lawyer has successfully petitioned online editors in Germany to remove any reference to the killers. Now, he wants to make the English-language Wikipedia remove the entry as well. The entry discussing the murder is right here.
Wikipedia isn’t likely to budge until more than a German court weighs in. Their legal counsel, Michael Godwin, said Wikipedia “doesn’t edit content at all, unless we get a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction.” (Godwin, by the way, is the originator of Godwin’s Law.)
The article featured names and photos of the two killers. The last two paragraphs read:
In a written response to Mr. Stopp, Wikimedia questioned the relevance of any judgments in the German courts, since, it said, it has no operations in Germany and no assets there.
“We’ll see,” Mr. Stopp said in an interview. In an e-mail message after the interview, he wrote, “In the spirit of this discussion, I trust that you will not mention my clients’ names in your article.”
Guess the spirit of the discussion didn’t hold much sway with the reporter.