Convicted murderer Wolfgang Werle is suing Wikipedia in an attempt to censor the site and have it remove his name from a post that makes mention of his culpability in the murder of actor Walter Sedlmayr.
Invoking Germany's privacy laws, Werle and his attorneys sent a cease-and-desist letter (available here) to Wikipedia demanding that the online encyclopedia delete his name from the entry on Walter Sedlmayr, which references Werle's killing of the actor.
Walter Sedlmayr's Wikipedia page currently says this about his murder:
In July 1990, Sedlmayr was found dead and mutilated in his bedroom. Through lurid reports in the Munich tabloid press, his homosexuality became a matter of public knowledge for the first time. In 1993, half-brothers Manfred Lauber and Wolfgang Werle, former business associates of Sedlmayr, were sentenced to life in prison for his murder. They were released on parole in 2007 and 2008.
The entry has also been edited to mention Werle's suit against Wikipedia:
In October 2009, lawyers for Wolfgang Werle sent Wikipedia a cease and desist letter requesting that Werl's name be removed from the article Walter Sedlmayr. The U.S. First Amendment protects truthful speech, although German law seeks to protect the name and likenesses of private persons from unwanted publicity.
Werle's lawyers are invoking German privacy laws in the matter, which seek to protect the name and likeness of a person from unwanted publicity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) notes.
Werle spent 15 years in prison for his crime, and his lawyers argue that Wikipedia's reference to his role in Sedlmayr's 1990 murder could impeded his "rehabilitation."
The Register reports the lawyers' message to Wikipedia:
Werl's "rehabilitation and his future life outside the prison system is severely impacted by your unwillingness to anonymize any articles dealing with the murder of Mr. Walter Sedlmayr with regard to our client's involvement," they wrote. "As your article deals with a local German public figure (such as the actor Walter Sedlmayr), we expect you are aware that you have to comply with applicable German law."
The EFF highlights an important conflict between the U.S. First Amendment and German law, and believes that the suit could bear significant ramifications for truth and "history":
At stake is the integrity of history itself. If all publications have to abide by the censorship laws of any and every jurisdiction just because they are accessible over the global internet, then we will not be able to believe what we read, whether about Falun Gong (censored by China), the Thai king (censored under lese majeste) or German murders.
See a screenshot of Sedlmayr's Wikipedia page below:
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more