In 1990, Bavarian actor Walter Sedlmayr was brutally murdered. Two of his business associates were convicted, imprisoned for the crime, and recently paroled. Who killed Sedlmayr? Its a matter of public record, but if one of the men and his German law firm gets their way, Wikipedia (and EFF) will not be allowed to tell you. A few days ago, the online encyclopedia received a cease and desist letter from one of the convicts—represented by the aptly named German law firm Stopp and Stopp—demanding that the perpetrator’s name be taken off of the Sedlmayr article page.
At issue is an apparent conflict between the U.S. First Amendment—which protects truthful speech—and German law—which seeks to protect the name and likenesses of private persons from unwanted publicity.
Human rights became a weapon to protect criminals. German courts convincingly take human rights protection to their logical conclusion. Convicted criminals should have a chance in life to re-socialize, after they get out of jail and finished their punishment.
Would it not be interesting if Walter Sedlmeyer’s heirs were fined or imprisioned for publishing the name of their father’s murderer?
Maybe off-line paper encyclopedias should be burned to expurge history? What about Hitler’s and Stalin’s rights to be forgotten?
Devil’s advocate’s irreverant suggestion
Maybe we should re-think human rights for criminals. Maybe like in old times, criminals should be executed, or permanently marked and mutilated.
Or maybe we should go all the way with human rights and government should employ or financially support criminals for the rest of their life, This is more honest then deceiving citizens into employing ex-criminals who were given a deceptively clean police record. Some hard labor jobs where they can earn their living but not threaten law abiding citizens would be a good option.
Brazil takes human rights for adolescents to the extreme: underage (under 18 years) criminals can get a maximum of 3 years of “educational measures” even if they killed, raped, and mutiliated many people). And after these three years, their criminal record is wiped clean. So you can do a background check on your new baby sitter or house maid, and get a clean police record, even though she is a multiple rapist and serial killer. This is “human rights” taken to their extreme. It is strange: law abiding citizens have no human rights to be protected from criminals.
Praise the US constitution and the First Amendment. No discussion in the US about censoring truth. Not a chance.
Of course, on the other end of the spectrum are kids who will be on sex offender lists all life long for having had consensual sex with a 15 year old when they were 17 or 18 year old.
Latest News: the German Supreme Court decided that the freedom of press archives is more important then the right of criminals to have their records deleted (Bundesgerichtshof urteilt gegen Sedlmayr-Mörder Dec. 15, 2009)
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.”