Europe is different.
How else to report the story of Wolfgang Werle and Manfred Lauber, who murdered an actor in 1990. They served their time–they were sentenced to life but recently released on parole–and now want to remove all reports of their crime. You see, they are being “resocialized” and shouldn’t be “stigmatized” for killing someone. Think of the “emotional suffering” that they incur when someone reads about their crime. Really! Poor Walter Sedlmayr was found mutilated in his bedroom, but no one seems concerned about his emotional and physical suffering.
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.”
Mr. Stopp has already successfully pressured German publications to remove the killers’ names from their online coverage. German editors of Wikipedia have scrubbed the names from the German-language version of the article about the victim, Walter Sedlmayr.
Now Mr. Stopp, in suits in German courts, is demanding that the Wikimedia Foundation, the American organization that runs Wikipedia, do the same with the English-language version of the article. That has free-speech advocates quoting George Orwell.
What makes this case so alarming is that the killers, Messrs. Werle and Lauber, want to do more than prevent future mentions, They want to expunge the past, a la 1984. And if their case succeeds in Germany, it could affect Americans’ access to information in this and future cases.
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