Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)

"A Non-Profit Civil Liberties Organisation"

A Member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign


Press Release - April 23, 1997: Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), a member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign signs a letter sent to Chancellor Kohl urging the recent investigation of Compuserve Prosecution in Germany.

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign letter was released on the 23rd of April 1997 following an official from CompuServe Germany being indicted for distribution of child pornography and other illegal content. This follows an investigation into CompuServe in December 1995.

In addition to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign letter, Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) notes that there have been recent developments within the European Union with respect to the regulation of illegal and harmful content on the Internet and the European Commission approved a Communication on Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet (1996) and a Green Paper on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audiovisual and Information Services on October 16, 1996. [See Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) web page for further information]

The EU Communication paper states that `the presence of illegal and harmful content on the Internet has direct repercussions on the workings of the Internal Market. In particular, the adoption by Member States of regulations of new Internet services may also create risks of distortions of competition (for example, through widely divergent responses to the question of potential liability of ISPs), hamper the free circulation of these services, and lead to a re-fragmentation of the Internal Market. If unsolved, such problems may justify Community intervention.'

The EU Communication paper further states that `Internet access providers and host service providers play a key role in giving users access to Internet content. It should not however be forgotten that the prime responsibility for content lies with authors and content providers.'

Blocking access at the level of access providers has been criticised by the EU communication paper on the ground that these actions go far beyond the limited category of illegal content and `such a restrictive regime is inconceivable for Europe as it would severely interfere with the freedom of the individual and its political traditions. Therefore `the law may need to be changed or clarified to assist access providers and host service providers, whose primary business is to provide a service to customers'.

The EU developments are very important and would affect both Germany and other Member States including the United Kingdom, therefore the position of the ISPs should be clarified, and they should not be targeted by the individual governments and law enforcement bodies where the ISPs have no control of the Internet content'.

Yaman Akdeniz, Director,
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) []
Fax: 0113-2335056


April 23, 1997


A coalition of civil liberties organizations from a dozen countries has written to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to express concern about the prosecution of an official from the Compuserve company which is making makes available Internet access to German subscribers. The official has been indicted by local prosecutors.

The letter states the prosecution of the Compuserve manager Mr. Felix Somm is "ill-advised for both technical and regulatory reasons" and will "have a harmful impact on Internet users around the world."

The groups said that "the charges against CompuServe will establish a harmful precedent, and may encourage other governments to censor speech, limit political debate, control artistic expression, and otherwise deny the opportunity for individuals to be fully informed."

The organizations signing the letter, which was organized by the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, include the American Civil Liberties Union, Arge Daten, Association des Utilisateurs d'Internet, Derechos Human Rights, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the Internet Society, and Privacy International.

Felipe Rodriquez, the administrator for XS4ALL, an internet provider that was recently blocked by German authorities in a separate matter said, "Is is not possible for a provider to censor the Internet according to the local law, custom or tradition. The Internet is too international and too dynamic for that to be possible. Censoring the Internet has, in most cases, proved to be counterproductive."

Andy Oram, a member of the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in the United States, said that he thought the attempts by German to limit use of the Internet in this manner were impractical. "Even if an Internet provider is notified that illegal material is coming from a certain site and cuts off all access to that site, the publisher of the material can easily find another site from which to send it."

The groups also noted their support for efforts now underway in the German parliament to liberalize the use of the Internet. "We believe that the measure now under consideration to reduce liability for Internet services will do much to ensure the protection of personal freedoms in the future," said the organizations.

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign was established at the annual meeting of the Internet Society in June 1996 in Montreal. It maintains a web site at with links to all of the member organizations.

Last September the group organized a conference in Paris to educate members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development about the need to develop cryptography polices that protected privacy and fundamental human rights. Aspects of the GILC recommendations were incorporated in the OECD Cryptography Guidelines released earlier this year.

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