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Project Gutenberg blocks access from Germany (pglaf.org)
922 points by jwildeboer 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 502 comments



I just donated $100 to PGLAF because they are fighting the good fight. Their donation page [0] includes "Think of this as a contribution to your grandchildren." However in this instance I think of it as a contribution against publishers (ab)using the justice system much like so-called patent trolls.

> Q: The plaintiff is S. Fischer Verlag, GmbH. Is that the international conglomerate?

> A: Yes, it is part of a family of companies all under single ownership and control or majority stakeholdership, from Germany, reaching around the world. S. Fischer Verlag, GmbH is a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg Holtzbrinck GmbH. Internationally it is known in the US and elsewhere as Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC. Readers in the US know this as Macmillan, which is one of the largest publishers in the US by revenue, and owns many familiar imprints. US readers might also recall that Macmillan was one of four companies accused by the US Dept. of Justice in 2012 of price fixing. The companies eventually settled the antitrust claims, including by giving credits to customers who had overpaid for eBooks.

[0] https://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:Project_Gutenberg_N...


I hope you don't mind that I take this opportunity to tell about he GFF, because it is very much related. If you are European and care about freedom rights, there is now an equivalent to the EFF/ACLU, called the "Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte" (short GFF), which translates to "Society For Freedom Rights".

They are mostly lawyers fighting strategic court battles in one of the cheapest country to do so, which in Europe happens to be Germany. This is a cost-effective way to further the cause of human and freedom rights.

If you are upset about

* excessive surveillance

* anti-whistleblower laws

* laws against freedom of information

then consider joining, they need your support to do what they do: https://freiheitsrechte.org/join/

Disclaimer: I'm not involved with the GFF except as a paying member.


European Digital Rights EDRi is the closest equivalent to the EFF in Europe. EDRi is an association of civil and human rights organizations from across Europe. It has existed since 2002.

https://edri.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Digital_Rights

https://edri.org/members/ (EFF from USA is also a member)

GFF is more German centered organization. I don't know how it relates to other German organizations like https://digitalcourage.de/ and https://digitalegesellschaft.de/


I have no idea why I never heard of them before, but this is the first time. Thanks!


Thanks for reminding me!

I donated to them last year, guess it's time for another one.


> However in this instance I think of it as a contribution against publishers (ab)using the justice system

Enforcing that Project Gutenberg actually respects german copyright law when offering service to german users is abusing the justice system? That's a surprising interpretation of these events, in my opinion.


> Enforcing that Project Gutenberg actually respects german copyright law when offering service to german users is abusing the justice system? That's a surprising interpretation of these events, in my opinion.

Being a US entity acting 100% legally under US law with no physical presence in Germany but somehow being required to comply with German laws seems a bit abusive to me, in my opinion.

Next time I go trolling because I have karma to burn I suppose I'll have to answer to German hate-speech laws?


The "publishers" I was implicitly referring to was the plaintiff.


I can log in from Germany.


Can someone in Germany confirm this block is actually in place?

In any case, if anyone in Germany would like to access Project Gutenberg, I maintain a full, daily updated mirror here: https://mirrors.sorengard.com/gutenberg. I also support FTP and Rsync if you’d like to download that way.

No donations are asked for, but it would be helpful if more people hosted mirrors for precisely this reason :). Unfortunately this mirror doesn’t have the search capabilities of the Project Gutenberg homepage, but it at least has all the files.

Now I’m actually curious about what is going to happen with Project Gutenberg mirrors. In general, many mirror admins (such as myself) join a project’s mirror mailing list and don’t necessarily pay attention to the right announcements to learn about this kind of legal minutia. That presents something of a logistics problem all around.

Putting aside ethics, it’s likely that many/most downstream mirrors simply won’t block German traffic. Project Gutenberg can stop redirecting German traffic to those mirrors on the fly, but they can’t stop the mirrors from being available unless they start banning mirrors (and mirror syncing traffic) that don’t enforce similar blocks...this seems logistically untenable.

It would be cool if we could get a lawyer to chime in about Project Gutenberg’s liability with respect to forcing other mirrors to comply. For example, I’m making my own mirror available to Germany. Is Project Gutenberg complicit in a meaningful sense, if they allow me to continue mirroring?


Your IP Address is Blocked from www.gutenberg.org

We apologize for this inconvenience. Your IP address has been automatically blocked from the address you tried to visit at www.gutenberg.org. This is because the geoIP database shows your address is in the country of Germany.

Diagnostic information:

Your IP address: <redacted>

Referrer URL (if available): http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/latest-covers

Time (GMT): Saturday, 03-Mar-2018 21:19:12 GMT

Why did this block occur?

A Court in Germany ordered that access to certain items in the Project Gutenberg collection are blocked from Germany. Project Gutenberg believes the Court has no jurisdiction over the matter, but until the issue is resolved during appeal, it will comply.

For more information about the German court case, visit PGLAF's information page about the German lawsuit.

For more information about the legal advice Project Gutenberg has received concerning international issues, visit PGLAF's International Copyright Guidance for Project Gutenberg

How can I get unblocked?

All IP addresses in Germany are blocked. This block will remain in place until legal guidance changes.

If your IP address lookup is incorrect

Use the Maxmind GeoIP demo to verify status of your IP address. Project Gutenberg updates its listing of IP addresses approximately monthly.


> A Court in Germany ordered that access to certain items in the Project Gutenberg collection are blocked from Germany... until the issue is resolved during appeal, [Project Gutenberg] will comply.

This is really misleading. It implies -- nay, outright states -- that Gutenberg is merely complying with the court order. But the court did not order the entire site to be blocked.

A more candid answer is found in their information page:[1]

Q: Why block all of Germany, rather than just those 18 books?

A: ...Because the German Court has overstepped its jurisdiction, and allowed the world's largest publishing group to bully Project Gutenberg for these 18 books, there is every reason to think that this will keep happening... Blocking Germany, in an effort to forestall further legal actions, seems the best way to protect the organization and retain focus on its mission.

[1] https://cand.pglaf.org/germany/index.html


PG decided they don't have time to deal with Germany's BS, so they implemented the simplest solution guaranteed to work.


More like retaliated to make a point.

For comparison, if they faced a U.S. publisher demand to block some books that were in violation, and in response they blocked all of the U.S., it would be misleading to suggest this was merely the "simplest solution".


You quoted them selectively to make your retaliation point. The full quote from the FAQ presents a very good argument, allowing access from a hostile legal jurisdiction could encourage thousands of cases and bankrupt the project:

>There are thousands of eBooks in the Project Gutenberg collection that could be subject to similar over-reaching and illigitimate actions.

>PGLAF is a small volunteer organization, with no income (it doesn't sell anything), other than donations. There is every reason to fear that this huge corporation, with the backing of the German Court, will continue to take legal action. In fact, at least one other similar complaint arrived in 2017 about different books in the Project Gutenberg collection, from another company in Germany.


If German courts maintains that making content available in Germany (ie, putting it on the Internet) gives them jurisdiction over your organisation, your choices are to be compliant with German law, or not to be available in Germany. PGLAF does not have the budget, nor the philosophical inclination to be compliant with German law, so that leaves one option. As you quoted in your GP, they have no reason to believe this will end with these 18 works, so the alternative really is compliance, not just blocking 18 works.

I'm sure PGLAF will welcome a German spin-off that makes works available in a manner compliant with German law, they just don't have the resources to be that place.

(Oh, and so what if they retaliated? Seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse for a bit of theatrics.)


That would only be the case if they thought the 18 books would be the end of the matter.

Quite obviously, it would not, so blocking all of Germany is the correct move to prevent any future cases under the same legal theories.

They don't want to be under German jurisdiction; the German court has said that serving users in Germany puts them under German jurisdiction; therefore they are no longer serving users in Germany. This seems like it should satisfy everyone concerned.


You're getting downvoted because it sounds like you're defending the plaintiffs, but you're essentially right. They could have minimized disruption to German users by removing the affected books and committing to remove other books upon request. They instead chose to respond in a very broad way that will draw a lot of attention.

Which, I want to be clear, is a good thing. PG is absolutely in the right here, and this response is well-calculated to raise awareness and put their attackers in the spotlight.


The simplest solution would have been to do nothing.


They still have to comply with the court ruling, i.e. at least block those 18 books in Germany, as they aren't The Pirate Bay. The website's move is smart because it avoids future complications coming from the Urheberrechtsgesetz, the German copyright law, and draws much-needed public attention to how easy it is for bully firms to abuse it.


The Q and A contradicts this.

>Copyright status in another country is not relevant to the legitimate ability of Project Gutenberg -- or anyone/anything in the US -- to make any use of these books.


According to the ruling, the CEO wouldn't be liable personally unless the violation is willful. Which, having been adjudicated in German court, it now would be. If the CEO becomes personally liable then found in contempt, he would have to avoid travel to Germany. That's a lot to ask of a volunteer.


How come they have to obey the court in Germany?


Copyright laws are to be respected whatever the country. This is a border case, so to see if the principle is sound, let's imagine something. Let's say a country, for whatever reason, decides that its copyright protections are of 1 year only. After that, this country decides that all books, movies, games are freely available from its territory through the internet because their copyrights are expired. Does anyone believes that all the other countries will say : "no problem, it's their law and the site is from their territory, so everything's allright" ? So, laws from any country have to be respected, especially with a global system like the internet. It is often annoying, sometimes disconcerting, but no country would allow their society to be governed by foreign laws. And I really appreciate even more the Project Gutenberg for that, because they care about laws everywhere and obey them according to the territory (the fact that they went for the easy way by blocking the entire country is really not important: it is just a matter of resources, so we have to donate more if this is what bothers us).


Is the country with the one-year copyrights a Berne Convention signatory?

If so, then it is in violation of the treaty, which sets a minimum term for copyrights. The WIPO may adjudicate and other signatories may take action.

If not, then what you have is a national sovereignty issue. Other countries can restrict trade with the one with different laws, but they can't directly stop it from refusing to be similar to them (without a military invasion!).

This is currently the situation with things like online gambling. It's legal in some parts of the world, and in others the citizens accessing the sites may be prosecuted, but the sites themselves are usually beyond the reach of the disapproving countries - often the USA.

I should note that it is totally possible to have two countries with CONTRADICTORY laws that cannot be simultaneously satisfied. How would you deal with that situation, if all must be respected?


You're giving an ethical reason, but I'm more interested in the actual consequences of a US entity ignoring a German court ruling. I'm not sure what teeth this court actually has with regard to American citizens.


No one really wants to antagonize the court system of another country for ever, so this gives the German courts some teeth. In this case Project Gutenberg is saying they are complying because they want an appeal and that the courts would look unfavourably on them if they just ignored the original order.


That would be risky for the people running Project Gutenberg, since Germany and the US have extradition treaties.


Unlikely to be extradited for an extra-territorial claim. But the members of the executive and the board might not want to strike Germany from their list of travel destinations forever.


It says "ordered that access to certain items..." I don't see anything misleading, or any implication that the court ordered the whole site blocked. I think it is obvious that only a few items were ordered to be blocked but they decided to block the whole site


I thought it was pretty clear. They specifically say "certain items" were to be blocked, not the entire website.


This is answered in the FAQ at the bottom of the article. Essentially because this sets a precedent that Germany believes it can sue over anything in the german language and other items in the library might potentially cause the same kind of lawsuit it's better to just block everything instead.


> Germany believes it can sue over anything in the german language

You did not read the ruling (carefully). The language of the books was not discussed at all. It was discussed whether the offer (to download books) is directed to people in Germany.

Project Gutenberg said "NO", because they use a .org domain. (Obviously trying to claim that Germans only visit .de domains and neglecting the fact that .org is really trying to stress international coverage)

The court ruled "YES" because

- Project Gutenberg explicitly mentions to be available worldwide (before the geo blocking resulting from this very case)

- Project Gutenberg has some of its Web site translated into German. (In court they argued they did that to address US users, because German is the 3rd biggest foreign language in the US. The court did not accept that argument.)

Furthermore it was counted against them that project Gutenberg advises on its web site that users must check local copyright laws before downloading, because downloading might be illegal according to local laws.

Taking these points into account I must say the court ruling was logical from a legal viewpoint. Project Gutenberg had only lame excuses and in fact denied their own mission in court.

The real issue is that incompatible country laws don't fit at all with Internet (unless you propose a Chinese big (fire)wall). But I don't see any improvements any time soon, a certain president just declared last week that trade wars are the way to go.


Why doesn't Austria have jurisdiction for German content, do they not speak German in Austria? Do UK courts have jurisdiction over companies which produce content in English? It's absurd to think that an element to establishing jurisdiction is the language content is produced in.


They said they have jurisdiction because the contents is directed (also) to users in Germany. They said nothing about exclusive jurisdiction or exclusively directed to Germany. They also ruled that access to the average user in Germany must not be easy (acknowledging that the user decided to download can circumvent it.) There was not a word about making the contents available to users in any other country.

In the context of existing copyright laws the ruling is understandable. It's just plain nonsense to have contradicting copyright laws in the age of a global internet. And if you say that copyright should only be enforced according to the country of the distributor then you just move all contents to a country that does not enforce at all. But isn't it just the US that complains a lot about (their) IP not enforced in China or Vietnam?


As you surmise, I have not read the ruling. I was basing my understanding from the following in the article:

> Q: Why didn't Project Gutenberg block access until the Court made its judgement?

> A: PGLAF's legal advisors disagree that any foreign Court or entity has jurisdiction over its actions regarding copyright. The Court in Germany has promoted a theory that it has jurisdiction, mainly because the www.gutenberg.org site has some content in the German language. ...

> Q: So the court thinks that the presence of content in German means that courts in Germany have jurisdiction, regardless of the fact that PGLAF is entirely in the US?

> A: Yes, that was the original basis of the claim for jurisdiction, which the Court accepted in their judgement. Since then, there some more recent decisions in the European Court of Justice, and other German courts, that support this theory based on a Web site being accessible from a country. I.e., if a Web site is accessible from Germany, there are some cases where German courts claimed jurisdiction over that site, even though it was operated, and based, outside of Germany. These cases involve companies that actually operate (for-profit) in Europe, and the cases were between two European countries (i.e. part of the EU). They are not consistent with prior laws and cases, even in Europe, and also not consistent with provisions of the Berne Convention and other international law.


Prededents.

Further lawsuits against PG for any of the other German texts could bankrupt the organization.


I disagree - it's not at all clear. Most people reading the statement would assume that the book they were trying to access was among the 'certain items' blocked by the court.


I'm currently in Germany. The notice appears when trying to access any part of the catalog, even the search. Thus, I don't think this is an issue.


It also appears for the URL they give in the FAQ for donations :-(


As the block page states, the court order states that certain items must be blocked - it does not specify the means by which it must be accomplished. Blocking German IPs is the simplest way to achieve that.


The block is indeed in place, but trivially circumvented using a VPN.

Please e careful with your mirror. You are now susceptible to the same lawsuit as the original Project Gutenberg. I am not sure where you are in the world, but Germany has legal assistance treaties with the US/UK/Scandanavia, all EEC and Schengen countries.

https://www.congress.gov/treaty-document/108th-congress/27/d... https://www.mlat.info/mlat-index


Based on how media companies sue German torrent sharers (it's a cash cow for the law firms, like the one that is involved here, Waldorf Frommer), they sue individuals for making copyrighted content available on the internet -- because when you're torrenting something other people can get the completed parts from your computer, so if you run a mirror which is accessible from Germany, you will probably get a letter from the above law firm.


Yep, they are serious business, not one of the dodgy ones that send out as many threatening letters as possible and hope that a few pay. They'll actually go to court, or did so in the past, with a huge army of lawyers. When the "fliegende gerichtsstand" was abolished they got more selective with which cases they actually took to court, depending on the city they'd have to go to. Before, all cases were handled in Munich, and the judges there were pretty much rubber-stamping the cases in favor of WF.


> if you run a mirror which is accessible from Germany

Access from Germany isn't the issue, having a German IP is the issue. They don't go after foreign seeders because that would be too much hassle getting the real data behind the IP (just like German law doesn't apply to them), but they hunt down seeders with German IP's with quite a vengeance.


PG is a US organization. They may have volunteer mirrors in Germany, but all of PG itself is in San Francisco, right?


Now we're mixing up 2 issues... torrents of copyrighted content with German seeders, and e-books of copyrighted content (at least copyrighted in Germany) with a website provider.

They only go for German seeders because asking a foreign ISP for the address of someone who used a particular IP address at a particular date and time would probably get them the middle finger as a reply. In the case of PG, they know who is making the copyrighted content available in Germany, because PG has an address on their website.

And a German court said it's within their jurisdiction.

If you run a mirror with your contact information available, presumably they will contact you next.


> Waldorf Frommer

Oh they are still around?! Someone should shut them down and jail for the mere reason of the enourmous amount of paper they waste on trolling letters.


I've seen them squeeze 1000 Euro out of so many people (usually the sum they go for, making it a tad more expensive than a defence lawyer would cost you). It's a sad state of affairs.


Hi! Thanks for the service you do for others by mirroring this content - what's involved with being a mirror? I'm not sure if it's something I have the means or skills to do, but Project Gutenberg (and information projects like it) are the key part of the internet — the parts that deserve to be reserved and accessed freely by all. I'd love to see if there's anything I could do to help out!


It’s very easy. I host official mirrors for a bunch of open source projects at https://mirrors.sorengard.com.

You set up Apache on a web server you control, configure virtual host settings in the Apache config files, then put your files to be hosted in something like /var/www/ and point Apache to it. Then set up Rsync by running the rsync daemon and setting an /etc/rsyncd.conf file that configures where the files are located and who can access them.

For example, let’s say you wanted to set up a mirror for the Ubuntu Package Archive. You could do that step by step with the following resources:

1. https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-inst...

2. https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-set-...

3. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Rsyncmirror

Maybe I’ll write up a short guide and throw it up somewhere. It’s really pretty straightforward. FTP is unfortunately trickier than HTTP and Rsync, but vsftpd removes a lot of the warts.


You mirror sage, but your site still links to sage.org, which seems to be defunct AFAICT, current is http://www.sagemath.org


Wouldn’t this be a good use case for IPFS? Then we could share the traffic and don’t have a single point of failure.


Sure, I don’t see why not. How involved is the process of putting the data onto IPFS?


I am not blocked. I could've even download "Der Vater" one of the eBooks from the case.

And yes german copyright laws are a fucking joke.


> copyright laws are a fucking joke.

Fixed that for you :-)


German ones are a particularly dark one.


How are German ones worse? I always think of Disney and Mosanto when I think about litigious companies..


The German copy right law was quite noticeable written with companies in mind, and had originally a right to private copies to get private people out of the reaches of the law. You could copy an entire book, or a movie, give it to a friend and that would be perfectly legal. (As long as you are clearly not doing that in any kind of commercial fashion.)

Early in the last decade, judges ruled that this basically never applies to anything internet, with the result that the entire copyright law is applicable. That would not be a big problem, except the entire law is written with the idea that both parties have already lawyers on staff. One example is the "Abmahnung," the way copy right disputes are meant to be resolved is, the lawyer of anybody who believes their copy right to be infringed sends a letter that tells the other guy to stop that, pay damages and sign a contract to never do that again. The escalation of that is, when you receive such a letter, then you sue against the "Abmahnung" and the judge who hears the case also decides about the original infringement. Trouble is, you are now suing and therefore the court is wherever the people who send the "Abmahnung" in the first place reside -- not a big problem if you are an large company in the first place.


You are misinformed on many levels.

You can still copy copyrighted data and send it to a friend over the internet, just like you can copy a book cover to cover and give the copy to a friend. The focus is on friend, however. When you torrent and connect to strangers, then it is public distribution and not anymore sharing between friends.

Also, the law § 104a UhrG clearly states that copyright infringement has to be brought to the local court of the defendant, when the defendant is a natural person. This is the case since the 9th October 2013.

Please don't spread wrong information.


I can still access it. No proxies or VPNs of any kind, just regular Telekom DSL.


According to heise.de, only IPv4 users are affected so far.

If you are using IPv6, you are still able to access it.


Oh, wow.

Yes, it works here with IPv6.


Also Telekom DSL, not blocked.

edit: Sorry: Only the frontpage isn't, search and books are ...


Can confirm block in O2 network, I can visit the homepage but access no books.


Try to access a book.


Works fine.


geofencing is not perfect.


Can confirm it. All books are blocked even though the front page is accessible.


Ah, maybe that explains the conflicting reports. Can you at least search for books and see results?


I can still open the full text of the offending books as html and as plain text. The EPUB and Kindle files are blocked, however. Maybe that's why there are conflicting reports.


Browsing indices works, however search is blocked as well.


IPv6?


Ot: what are the logistics of running a pg mirror, traffic and space wise?



Works (Search, lookup, random German authors) fine for me.

PS: I'm surfing with (mostly) this configuration:

http://12bytes.org/tech/firefox/firefoxgecko-configuration-g...

No idea, if this might affect the outcome. IMHO, not.


Did you actually open a book? Because everything else is not blocked.


Several. HTML versions though. Might be IPv6 as mentioned above.

Sad...


I am not using a VPN or anything and can access http://www.gutenberg.org/ just fine from germany (including access to books). Not sure why though.


I'm German and I can access it, and that book all of Mann's other books.


I'm not a lawyer, but you may be seeing a cease and desist letter in your near future.

BTW, you may want to make sure you aren't keeping logs including traffic sources' IP addresses.


i doubt it.


How big is the data?

I think that is also a good case for hosting this on ZeroNet, the internet as it should be : P2P and decentralized.


Confirmed. Download pages are blocked. But reachable via non german VPN servers. Seems like money rules the world - sad...


Stuff like this makes me want to run a mirror too.

If I may ask, how much disk capacity does running a Gutenberg mirror currently take?


Works fine for me. Seems like the block is not active at the moment.

Edit: Individual books are blocked.


>Edit: Individual books are blocked.

Vodafone?


DSL from Easybell.


>Can someone who is in Germany actually confirm this block is in place?

Cannot confirm it, Gutenberg.org works fine for me.

Edit: tried 3 different ISPs, no issues.

Edit 2: Tried accessing books, this was blocked for 1/3.


Interesting, thanks. I wonder if the block was more localized then all of Germany, if it was simply misconfigured, or if they just decided to stop blocking the traffic.


They only block the books themselves, not the index pages. Attempting to view any book will result in a block message.


I'm on one of the biggest German ISPs (Deutsche Telekom) and I can access front page and books just fine.

Tried it with the HTML versions of four different books, among them "most popular" like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and A Tale of Two Cities, they all work without issue.


Vodafone/Kabel Deutschland doesn't seem to be blocked either. (I tried a couple from the 18 that are supposed to be blocked.)


Unitymedia doesn't seem to be blocked either.


Works fine for me for all books I tested. Can you name some specific ones which are blocked for you?


The top ten of the top 100 list are all blocked, as well as many random books in several random languages.


All of them work for me, same with the search function or even the actual 18 books. Same ISP as freeflight. Well, that's interesting...


It still works for me and I can access the content of books. My provider is unitymedia.


Can anything be made using ipfs?


Isn't IPFS peer to peer? Then it would be no different than using Torrent clients. Users would be just noticed or sued individually.


Certainly, given that each ebook could be a static hash. But you'd need to revise index pages periodically. And I'm not sure how search could be implemented. Except through Google, which does index pages from https://ipfs.io/ipfs/ . However, I gather that IPFS respects take-down requests, so you might need to use another gateway.


I just tried and it was not blocked. maybe the block does not work on IPv6..


Same here on 1&1.


Thanks for the mirror!


I get ERR_SSL_PROTOCOL_ERROR


Still works for me


They probably blocked some version of Mein Kampf, which they have every right to do and ought to do.


Why? I hate everything Hitler stood for. I read mein kampf it did not change my opinion.


The authors and books are listed in the linked faq. None seem politically related, although I don't know German.


Read them in the original. They are not pleasant and bringing up the memory of those things is just as bad as causing them.


PG did exactly the right thing here.

By only blocking these 18 books, nobody would have taken much notice of this. By blocking all German users from the site, they will get a lot of media attention, and S. Fischer Verlag will get a lot of bad press. Whether or not they will move from their position is questionable, but it will hurt them.

Just sent a small donation to PG.

Making an effort not to buy books from that publishing house ever again, and telling all my friends about it.


> Making an effort not to buy books from that publishing house ever again, and telling all my friends about it.

Good luck with that. S. Fischer is owned by Holtzbrinck. They own Macmillan, Springer Nature and a bunch of other publishing houses. Here's a list of their subsidiaries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holtzbrinck_Publishing_Group#S...


Is it so uncommon for big companies to evaluate the performance of various divisions independently? If Holtzbrinck recognizes that S. Fischer's activities have caused that subsidiary to start losing money, they will probably modify their opinion. Why would they want to subsidize a losing bet using the profits from other divisions? The fact that two companies are owned by the same holding group does not really mean they are the "same" company, any more than two companies which are majority owned by the same private investors are the same company.


S. Fischer isn't just a independent subsidiary. The company is run by Monika Schoeller (born Monika von Holtzbrinck). She and her brother own large parts of Holtzbrinck and she's listed as a partner and member of the supervisory board on Holtzbrinck's website. (Her brother, Stefan von Holtzbrinck, is the CEO.)

> Why would they want to subsidize a losing bet using the profits from other divisions?

Because owning S. Fischer, Rowohlt and Droemer Knaur means owning a large chunk of the german book market.


I would guess most of us outside Germany have no real contact with S. Fischer, but considerable dealings with Holtzbrinck's other subsidiaries.


That makes it easier to make an impact. Now that they own a considerable portion of the market, next time you're gonna buy some Macmillan book, just don't buy it, and instead find pdf through genlib or pirate bay.


> Good luck with that.

Well, depending on the books, it may be easy to download the books online without buying them...


Don't buy but pirate and share. Let's not block information only payment.


So the authors should work for free? That’s theft.


No matter how much propaganda has told you otherwise, copyright violation is not theft.

Theft involves a physical loss by the victim. After a theft, the victim no longer has the stolen property. Would you consider it theft if someone looked at your car, and built an exact copy 1,000 miles away? Of course not! You still have your car.


The author probably got paid an amount for writing the book and then hands all rights over to the publisher. The publisher then prints it forever and takes the income from that. This is a guess based on working with other publishers though. Individual companies may differ.


The author will work for free if the boycott proceeds. This way his work can at least be seen.


It's not theft. If you took away the bike of the author, that's theft.


If enough people stop buying from just Macmillan alone, that would have an impact.


Unfortunately, a significant portion of their business is in public education, where that isn't seen as an option.


But did they do the right thing by participating in a court that has no jurisdiction? Why would they participate in that? Doesn't participating extend legitimacy to the claims, and make one subject the outcome (including paying the legal fees when losing)?


No more so than if they didn't participate. It's generally suggested that if someone sues you in a jurisdiction that you care about, you show up to defend yourself. Otherwise you'll simply have summary judgement entered against you. Now, in this case since the plaintiffs won, it probably wouldn't have been any worse—and likely cheaper due to lower legal costs—but they couldn't know that going in.


They are appealing the decision.


> But did they do the right thing by participating in a court that has no jurisdiction?

Good question - I was wondering myself. What's stopping them from simply ignoring the ruling and walking away? It's certainly not Project Gutenberg's obligation to carry out a block ordered by a country they don't do any business in. And if anyone thinks it is, does that still apply if the court isn't a german one, but instead one from...let's say...the faroer islands? Nobody would care and I don't see why Project Gutenberg should in this case.


Ignoring the order could result in personal liability of people involved in the project (as this is now a willful violation). Those people can then strike off Germany (and likely the EU and other countries) from the list of places to ever visit.

They can seize all assets within their reach (e.g. donations from Germans) but this would be a larger problem if the site would be a for-profit company with European customers. So the risk for the site to have the ruling actually enforced is lower than usual.



For a second I thought you were talking about Paul Graham


Fabulous :S The second time in 6 months German courts violated the public interest and ruled in favour of vested corporate intrests with an affect on me:

* In late 2017, a useless commercial weather forecast outlet (aggregating its data itself from national institutations!) sued the German National Weather service into having to take down its free weather app from the Apple and Goole app stores (development and operations funded with tax payer money!) and charge a fee for it. Somehow the judges got convinced that the Service unduly competed with a third-rate commercial information service.

* In early 2018, the courts lock out the public from a vast aggregate of literature in the public domain.

I'm sure I'll have a fresh item to continue the list soon.


Why does the EU still have the same gross and absurd copyright terms and laws the US does? It fights US companies like Google on privacy and information security grounds, but seems to follow lockstep with the US on completely irrational copyright policy like "75 years after the author dies, only then can anyone else reproduce this work".

The US has it because its government is coopted by big media like Disney, MPAA, and RIAA and the average American is too ignorant / doesn't care at all about the death and stifling of culture that 100+ year copyright terms bring about. Europeans seem to have more democratic governments that are more willing to represent the interests of their citizens, so why is it just as bad over there?


Because, unlike some frankly sometimes a bit ignorant view of especially Americans, Germany isn't the paradise of individual/customers rights paradise it's often portraied as. It fights companies like Google not because privacy and security concerns but protectionism and the public accepts that due to some reasonble concerns about privacy spiked with deeply entrenched anti-americanism. (For context: I'm German)


I'm also German and strongly disagree with your opinion. Privacy is a very delicate topic in Germany since the Nazis and the Stasi used to arrest people for even talking bad about them.


If it’s so delicate, why do Germans permit a law that requires people to register their religion? When I had applied for a German residency permit, I was asked to disclose a religion, ostensibly to determine taxes.

I feel like Germans fall back on the “delicate topic” nonsense as a permanent justification for just about everything, but in reality, they tolerate plenty of big government violations of privacy and individual liberty while becoming hysterical about Google or Facebook. It’s illogical, Facebook isn’t going to lead to Nazism or the Stasi again — but the actual government could, yet Germans tolerate their government tracking people by religion or a government conducting mass surveillance but they lose their minds over an American social media company?

Russians and East Europeans aren’t constantly claiming “sensitivity” because of the past abuses of the KGB or NKVD despite those organizations killing vastly more people than the Nazis.

It’s hypocrisy. You can’t claim to be sensitive about a Nazi past while still tolerating the government to register people by their religion. Facebook privacy issues aren’t going to lead to Nazism; any implication of same is just nonsense.


> I was asked to disclose a religion, ostensibly to determine taxes.

The Church's "member fee" is being collected as a tax by the state because of some Weimar Republic law that has been kept around. Bishops are also payed by the state. This was to stop the then powerful churches from revolting against the government because the government wanted to clean up older laws and conflicts. [1] Don't ask me why it's still this way, I know a lot of people that want to get rid of that, including myself. You can get out of paying church tax very easily at the city hall, btw. You can then also state that your religion is following the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Imho, you are blowing this out of proportion.

> It’s illogical, Facebook isn’t going to lead to Nazism or the Stasi again

Right, but governments that request access to this data can. It's better to not collect data in the first place.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tax#Germany


While this is true for the people, the officials seem to have other goals and opinions about privacy. E.g. using video surveillance at the Südkreuz in Berlin.

Also from Germany ;)


There are advocacy groups fighting privacy everywhere, including germany. And yes, they make progress, even here. But we still have stronger privacy culture and laws (that local companies follow, regardless what the guy a few posts above says) , giving such groups a much harder time here (and some degree the EU) to push their agenda. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case regarding IP laws/interest.


International IP law is standardized through the World Intellectual Property Organization. National laws like the DMCA in the US are local implementations of the international agreements.

Conforming to these rules is necessary to join any international club.

Without agreeing to terrible copyright laws, as a country, you basically don’t exist.

Take a look at the map here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Intellectual_Property_Or...


seems to follow lockstep with the US on completely irrational copyright policy like "75 years after the author dies, only then can anyone else reproduce this work".

No, the US followed the EU on that one. The Berne Convention first set that policy¹ in 1886, and amongst the original signatories were multiple European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Others followed soon after, like Luxembourg (1888), Denmark (1903), Austria and Greece (1920), Hungary (1922), Ireland (1927), Finland (1928), etc.

The US was a holdout; they kept the policy based only on date of publication, which led to a much shorter duration, and only joined Berne a century after its creation.

Which is why the books in question in this lawsuit are in the public domain in the US but not in Germany.

¹ Berne only said life + 50, but it was already life + 80 in Germany before the US ever joined. The EU then harmonized at life + 70 in Directive 93/98/EEC.


But those facts don’t fit with the anti-American trope commonly repeated on Hacker News. Why do many Europeans on here seem to resent or blame the US for everything? There doesn’t seem to be nearly the same animosity from Asians or Australians. I am genuinely curious because clearly you stated the facts around the origins of copyright law but clearly others wanted to claim that this whole system was caused by Americans — despite being factually wrong. Do Europeans have an inferiority complex or something when it comes to Americans? It’s strange to me because Germans really seemed to love the US during the Berlin Wall era.. Levi’s, American music, Coca Cola, American military assistance to counter the Soviets.. but as soon as that wall came down, the next German generation seems to be filled with a low-grade hatred or resentment of all things American. But Europeans, rather than attempting to compete with American companies like Facebook, Apple or Google, instead seem to want to use the government to weaken those companies — rather than supporting tax and entrepreneurial policy that would allow places like France to create successful companies. There are more tech billionaires and millionaires in a single city in the United States than in the entirety of Europe. And that money? It gets used to fund more companies — creating a cycle of innovation and entrepreneurship.

But somehow, all of Europe’s problems are because of America?


Well, while I'm European, I can't say I speak for Europeans; I have no special knowledge. Take this with a big grain of salt.

You know the Elder Race trope in sci-fi? I think we Europeans think of ourselves a bit like that. Having suffered so much in both world wars, and having since mostly stopped fighting, we see ourselves as mature. Between the 50s-80s, we also mostly embraced a style of social-democracy with strong safety nets, which made us think of ourselves as compassionate. And our ancient heritage - cities, traditions, etc - make us feel wise.

Americans are seen a bit like the ancient Greeks and Romans saw the Barbarians. We might like some of you (hell, some barbarians were made into Roman emperors!), but you are still seen as violent and dangerous; be that due to your foreign policy (Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq) or your way of life (love of guns, poor social safety net, anti-science beliefs, etc).

But the real problem is that you are powerful, and you use that power. The previous poster might be incorrect regarding that particular policy, but their misconception comes from the fact that the US has been forcing IP treaties (e.g. ACTA) on other countries. And it's not just those treaties, it's your products and even your culture. You mentioned Coca-Cola. You know how that used to be called in my country, especially during the more left-wing days of the late 70s? The "dirty water of imperialism". The fear of being Americanized exists - and it's not unreasonable.

But you should also know that the US is not seen as the source of all evils, that's probably just what reaches you. There's plenty of internal strife. In my country, during the crisis, the enemies were Merkel and Schaeuble, for example.


1) the EU moving away from US economic and foreign policy is a relatively recent development. On most issues, from Crimea to copyright, you can usually start from the assumption that European and American positions are somewhat aligned. The exceptions (privacy etc) are well-known exactly because they are exceptions.

2) EU countries have a significant skin in the creative-sector game, in a way they really don't in other segments. In tech the US are more or less dominant, most "Big Bad Corps" are American, hence it's easier to attack. As soon as big European interests are in the picture, things naturally become harder. In this case, the incriminated books are by top German authors and likely contribute a pretty penny to the publisher's bottom line.

3) do not make the mistake of assuming a humongous organism like the EU always talks with one voice. Already what we call "EU" is actually a hodgepodge of treaties and institutions (including nation-states that literally invented the various different forms of nation-statehood to mark differences with their neighbours...) that are slowly being integrated together. Then you have competing interests between nations, between institutions, between different economic and political interests, and between individuals. In this case a court ruled in a certain way following existing guidelines; but it might well happen that something else, like EuroParliament, looking for a fight at some point, will eventually pick up this sort of issue and push for change.

> Europeans seem to have more democratic governments that are more willing to represent the interests of their citizens

I wish I could share this view. Alas, things like corruption, regulatory captivity, and revolving doors, are big problems on this side of the pond too.


>3) do not make the mistake of assuming a humongous organism like the EU always talks with one voice. Already what we call "EU" is actually a hodgepodge of treaties and institutions (including nation-states that literally invented the various different forms of nation-statehood to mark differences with their neighbours...) that are slowly being integrated together. Then you have competing interests between nations, between institutions, between different economic and political interests, and between individuals. In this case a court ruled in a certain way following existing guidelines; but it might well happen that something else, like EuroParliament, looking for a fight at some point, will eventually pick up this sort of issue and push for change.

This is an important point that is often forgotten. People complain that the EU is too complicated, but it became that way be necessity. You couldn't have built a European federation with the same scope and less complexity.


>likely contribute a pretty penny to the publisher's bottom line

Is there any evidence for this ? Judging by the dates of the works, this looks like it is just a shakedown and an attempt to set precedent.


Thomas Mann is a giant of European literature, a Nobel Prize read in universities all across Europe. Chances are it's compulsory reading in German high schools in some way. The Buddenbrooks alone will probably sell a good amount of copies each year.

Heinrich Mann was a very important figure during Weimar. Again, chances are it pops up in compulsory reads.

I honestly don't know Döblin, but looking at how his most famous book is described, he seems to be another key read about the Weimar years - again, likely compulsory at school in Germany.

Schoolbooks make a lot of money.


The EU broadly follows the French legal tradition that copyright isn't a "monopoly granted for the useful arts" as we hear so much on here from Americans. Copyright is considered to be a property right, period. And hence inheritable.

The Hacker News contention that the US exports it's copyright policy flat out isn't true really. The EU has always had very similar beliefs on the value of strong, long term copyright.


> The US has it because its government is coopted by big media like Disney, MPAA, and RIAA and the average American is too ignorant / doesn't care at all about the death and stifling of culture that 100+ year copyright terms bring about.

Germany has many powerful media/publishing companies as well, and most people don't care. It's really a very similar situation.


Perhaps the European interests fighting copyright regulation are stronger than the ones that fought privacy regulation. See: diesel


Not sure why you would mention diesel. At the moment, European governments are queuing up to announce draconian bans on diesel coming into force in just a few years. That's certainly not pleasing most entrenched players in the energy and manufacturing sectors.

If you wanted to highlight established interests successfully fighting their corner in EU proceedings, you could have picked something like tax harmonisation or OGMs - fields where extensive lobbying seems to have ultimately won the day.


Could we for once and for all stop entertaining the ridiculous notion that GMOs are somehow harmful or a thing that should be avoided? Every single argument I've heard against GMOs, so far, has been a form of wilfully ignorant neo-luddism.

While yes, the contracts that companies selling GMOs utilise are socially unfair, it's not like we consider databases to be a horrific thing because Oracle licensing terms are bullshit.


> the ridiculous notion that GMOs are somehow harmful

I did not express any judgement on this topic, I just pointed out that the current state of play at EU level on the subject is the result of extensive lobbying from the relevant industry.


Ah I see. Still, your statement that extensive lobbying has won is pretty much a blanket statement for any contentious legislation. Both sides will extensively lobby and whichever side wins will be able to attribute it to lobbying.

In GMOs case, it appears that the traditional lobbyists (the corporate lobbyists) have actually lost in the EU. GMOs are subject to dumb shit like mandatory labelling which only reinforces people's ill-founded fears and will inevitably poison debate going forward. After all, "why would they force labelling if it were harmless?"


> Both sides will extensively lobby

Absolutely, but often one side will not have industrial interests in play. I'm not intimate with the OGM situation, but the mainstream perception was that this is one of those cases where there is a difference in budgets, let's say.

> it appears that the traditional lobbyists (the corporate lobbyists) have actually lost

They had lost, and comprehensively, when the blanket ban was introduced. But they've since won by reversing it. If the situation actually were to be crystallized now, it would be a victory for pro-OGM interests and their lobbyists.


> Why does the EU still have the same gross and absurd copyright terms and laws the US does?

Uh... you do realize the EU had them first?


> In early 2018, the courts lock out the public from a vast aggregate of literature in the public domain.

The court decided that 18 titles should not be available. Locking you out completely was project Gutenberg’s decision.

I don’t support either court decision, but let’s still keep the facts straight.


For two reasons - other publishers were poking around about doing the same thing (minimize risk of it happening again with other titles), and to keep on the good side of the court (to ease appeals).

Can't say I blame them for either reason.


Also, it was a great rebuke to S. Fischer Verlag, GmbH.


At the cost of harming all german users. The Fischer Verlag honestly couldn’t care less - they probably like the outcome. Now even books that they wouldn’t have a legal recourse against are no longer available and must be bought. What an unexpected bonus!


Yes, that is true, and unfortunate. However, under US copyright law, Project Gutenberg does have the right to host those books. And it's never prudent to compromise regarding illegal demands.


I’d question it’s illegal. They have the right to host the books in the US, granted. But do they have the right to distribute them in germany? That’s where the court says no. And given the legal situation in germany, I think the courts decision could be correct.

It’s also a bad decision in practical and strategic terms: either they appeal the decision, then they accepted jurisdiction and the legality of the injunction or they don’t - and what options do they have then? Keep up the block indefinitely or cave in at some point, showing that against a determined adversary, they’ll eventually back down? Imho, it’s good only for internet cookie points.


They could arguably have ignored the decision. If a German court rules that something should not be available in Germany, they should order German ISPs to block it. That's what the UK does about "illegal" torrenting and streaming. And that's what China does about the Dali Lama, Falun Gong, Uighur resistance, and so on.

Edit: OK, so some argue that Project Gutenberg, which does business from the US, and which has no physical presence in Germany, should have done what the German court ordered. But consider the implications. Firms hosting content from a particular country would be subject to court orders from every country. That would not end well.


> But consider the implications. Firms hosting content from a particular country would be subject to court orders from every country. That would not end well.

They already are if they target users in a given country. Lack of international enforcement just means that they might escape enforcement. See also GDPR, the US case against Mega, a company run by a NZ resident and incorporated in Hongkong IIRC. See also how Twitter blocks certain tweets in certain countries lest they’re blocked completely. Same holds true for Facebook. Google censors certain autocomplete and searches in some countries. They also adhere to the EU “right to be forgotten” regulations - despite being an US company.


Sure, many companies comply "in certain countries lest they’re blocked completely". But Alexandra Elbakyan has ignored judgments in US courts against her. Under Russian law, I believe that her site is legal under fair use. She has managed to piss off the Putin administration, but that's a separate issue (as I understand it, her communist purity vs his vanity). And Google basically left China over censorship demands.

In the Mega case, the US basically leveraged their Five Eyes relationship with New Zealand to have Kim Dotcom's estate semi-illegally raided in January 2012. I say semi-illegally because it was done under agreements that are normally used against terrorists. I doubt that China could get away with rendition from US soil. No more than the US could get away with rendition of Snowden from Russian soil.

So basically, which countries get to enforce their law in other countries depends on relationships and dependencies, relative military power, and support from powerful allies. Under those standards, Germany might have a chance of prevailing against Project Gutenberg in the US. Except that the US doesn't like to be pushed around.


Ignoring an unfavorable ruling because it can't be enforced is not equal to not being subject to the laws. Alexandra Elbakyan might have major trouble traveling to the US.


An ISP block would also only block the entire site. This was not the intention of the court otherwise they would have done that instead.

The court only wanted some books blocked, not the entire site, because under german copyright those books are not yet public domain.


I'm sure that ISPs could block particular URLs.


Only for HTTP requests, any HTTPS or non-HTTP request is not as easy to block.

Most site blocks are on the DNS level as they aren't particularly complicated.


The court did not order the books blocked, it ordered them taken down and for PG to pay damages.


These 18 titles were the canary in the coal mine showing that under current German law, it is infeasible to operate a Project Gutenberg-like service accessible in Germany.

The lock-out is just the natural result of that.


It is absolutely possible to operate a Project Gutenberg-like service accessible in Germany. It would just have to serve books in the German public domain, just like the original PG serves books in the US public domain. Project Gutenberg Australia (http://gutenberg.net.au/), for example, has books that are in the Australian public domain but are still under copyright in the US.

It happens that in this case the books are in US public domain but not the German, but that's more of an exception than a rule: current US and EU copyright terms are the same (life of author + 70 years). Australia on the other hand has life of author + 60 years.


Regardless of what the court supports, this outcome is the direct effect of the court's ruling although it is not proportional to the scope of the ruling. Admittedly, I phrased it in a catchy manner.


However, it's reasonably proportional to the implications of the ruling.


To put things into perspective, the plaintiffs lawyers, Waldorf Frommer, are known for shady tactics. They have built an industry of putting immense pressure on private people. They don't shy away from lawsuits because they are cheap for them and menacing for the people. They don't always win, but under the line it is a very profitable business for them; they employ about 60 lawyers.

The public broadcast made documentaries about their cease-and-desist-industry against private people. Even the German Bundestag changed multiple times the law to stop that madness, but it took many years because the christian party opposed effective changes. Now, even though the law has changed on the 13th October 2017, they continue to pressure people into paying.

Some courts are heavily in favour of them, most notably the Amtsgericht München. This makes the situation even worse for people who cannot afford to appeal a judgement even though they are convinced they are not guilty, because the financial risk is too high. I would not be surprised if the judgement in this case gets overthrown in a higher court.

The defendants german lawyers, WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE, are known for legal defense against Waldorf Frommer. Personally, I don't trust them completely because they offer an all-inclusive legal defense package that is conveniently priced at 2/3 of the value Waldorf Frommer asks for. This industry is a huge employment scheme for lawyers.


Publishing the name of the company will not really help to fight them. Every company is a team of people behind, so listing names of those people can have a better effect instead.


Could you expand on why you think the name of the company is not important here?


Companies are indifferent to the bad image, especially those not presented on the stocks market. People are more sensitive.


ubiyubix, your comment is dead.

To answer your question, I don't remember which documentaries were good, but searching on YouTube with subsets of the relevant keyword set {abmahnung, abzocke, Waldorf frommer, doku} will give you multiple results.

Just to give one example, I'll name https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w7t4znx8DA


Do you have the titles of the documentaries? I didn't find any. Search engines just deliver tons of links of lawyers offering their services.


If you want to take action, like boycott, these rent seekers. Here's a list of associated publishers:

    S. Fischer Verlag
        O.W. Barth
        Wolfgang Krüger
        Argon Verlag (de)
        Scherz Verlag (de)
            Fretz & Wasmuth
    Rowohlt Verlag
    Kiepenheuer & Witsch
    Verlagsgruppe Droemer Knaur
    Die Zeit
    Macmillan
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
        Faber & Faber
    Henry Holt and Company
        Holt Paperbacks
        Metropolitan Books
        Times Books
        Owl Books
    Palgrave Macmillan
    Picador
    Roaring Brook Press
        Neal Porter Books
        First Second Books
    St. Martin's Press
    Tom Doherty Associates
        Tor Books
        Forge Books
    Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group
        W.H. Freeman
        Bedford-St. Martin's
        Worth Publishers
    Hayden-McNeil
    Nature Publishing Group
        Scientific American
    Audio Renaissance
    Renaissance Media
    Macmillan Publishers
        Palgrave Macmillan
        Pan Macmillan
            Macmillan
            Pan Books
            Picador
            Macmillan Children's Books
            Campbell Books
            Priddy Books
            Boxtree
            Sidgwick & Jackson
        Nature Publishing Group
        Macmillan Education


This list is not entirely accurate: Faber & Faber is not associated with Holtzbrinck.


The UK publisher is not but they sold the US company with that name (their former subsidiary) to Holtzbrinck.


I’m really for open access to old books, but for playing devils advocate I can see the courts point: International websites have to respect local laws. After all those are the only ones I can directly influence (by voting, etc.) If we’d start to ignore this (even if it is in my advantage in this case), this means I have no influence any more on how companies are allowed to interact with me (which shouldn’t be the case in a democratic state)

It’s a hard decision as the internet is global and I don’t have a real solution, but I don’t think taking US (or any other) law as „the valid law on the Internet“ is helpful.


> for playing devils advocate I can see the courts point: International websites have to respect local laws

I think this is an untenable position as it would mean that any website, published from any country, hosted on servers in any country, would have to abide by the laws of the world’s 193 countries.

Project Gutenberg’s argument is that they are only a US concern — everyone involved officially is in the US, and the site is hosted in the US.

This is distinct from, say, a company explicitly providing a service to customers in a particular country (cf GDPR).

And, to counter your point with an extreme example, it would mean that no-one is ever able to criticise the Thai monarch on any website in the world lest they be jailed under Thailand’s lèse majesté laws.

It’s one thing to say that an in-country website respect that country’s laws, it’s another entirely to say that any website hosted anywhere in the world must respect that country’s laws.


This is the case, and has always been the case.

It is pretty common for people to sue international publications for libel in the UK under UK libel laws on the basis that the site has British readers.

The US decided to unilaterally breach it's treaty provisions on that front and doesn't enforce British libel judgements (you may think this is a good thing, but that is what actually happened), but notably if you ever visit the UK as an American publisher you're still liable...


Most of our websites violate Chinese law. Do you think we'll ever be held liable? No, of course not.

All websites are, by the nature of the internet, international. But it is not really feasible for them to be held to any legal standard but those where they have servers, are incorporated, or do business.


Yes, that’s a good point (and, as someone who works in newspapers, something I’m well acquainted with).

Perhaps my original comment was too simplistic; it is a thorny issue.


> This is distinct from, say, a company explicitly providing a service to customers in a particular country (cf GDPR).

In what ways do you think the GDPR is distinct from the laws in the present case? Let's say, for argument's sake, that gutenberg.org starts capturing PII about visitors and storing it without conforming to the GDPR. Do you think it would be fair for the EU to sue them and (attempt to) enforce their law? If so, why?


(Starting with the caveat that I’m not hugely well-versed in the GDPR:)

I think that actively soliciting personal data from people (wherever they may be) and collecting or processing it entails a higher level of responsibility. The GDPR in that situation effectively says: if you want to collect or process data on EU citizens you have to follow some rules.

I don’t believe that simply publishing a document online, for anyone who may wish to see it, has that “active character.”

However, others have pointed out that offering the Gutenberg website in a German translation is a similar act. I do think this is arguable, and this point does appear in the court ruling:

> “Apart from that, the first defendant’s website is also intended to target German users. This is supported by the fact that the website is partially in German, that the site offers German-language works, and that the first defendant explicitly strives to make the works available globally” [from the English translation]

However, going back to my point earlier, my concern is with the idea of making the website “publicly accessible in Germany.” I think there is a disconnect here between the understanding of traditional publishing (where it takes effort to publish abroad) and internet publishing (where it takes effort to prevent access from abroad).

I worry about the chilling effect of such a ruling. Should I, out of an abundance of caution, only make my blog available to readers in the UK (where I am, and where my blog is hosted)? I think it is easy to see what the effects of such a ruling could be, and (take to their logical conclusion) would have a severely detrimental effect on information exchange via the internet.


(Thanks for the well-reasoned reply! I'll preface mine by saying that I'm not terribly well-versed in the GDPR either... and that's really part of the problem.)

AFAICT, the GDPR consider an IP address to be PII. So collecting visitor logs or sticking an analytics script on the page -- even without asking people to sign in or otherwise identify themselves -- would fall under the purview of the GDPR. I don't think doing such things should cross the line into "active character".

It's also a terrible idea to infer intent from offering translations in other languages. As another comment pointed out (I presume correctly) there are more German speakers outside Germany than there are within its borders. Why should trying to improve the accessibility of a web site by people around the world make one susceptible to the laws of a language's native country?

As you say, the implied end state is the real problem: do I now need to learn about the relevant laws of every country whose residents (or even citizens?) might visit my web site? That's regulation without representation, and should be resisted on principle IMHO. Or will every site need a standard disclaimer that it's only intended for residents of X?

Perhaps some creative lawyer will figure out how to add a clause to Terms of Use that shifts responsibility for damages incurred by exposure to extraterritorial laws to the offending (offended?) user, and we can have a detente through mutually assured destruction of dueling lawsuits. :)

And just to preempt any criticism from the European peanut gallery, I'm in favor of stronger privacy protections on the Internet but they need to be worked out and agreed on globally, not imposed unilaterally by claiming extraterritorial jurisdiction.


Of course it would be fair. Because EU citizens would be harmed.

That‘s the duty of a state. Protect its citizens.


EU Citizens are harmed here! Those publishers are being denied income because a site is hosting content they hold German copyright for, for free!


Google does it. Wikipedia has local lawsuits.

I'd argue that this is part of the (unfortunate) reality of running a global project and, as commented elsewhere, the only safe option to avoid lawsuits is to pick a set of laws (US here), have lawyers for the same and .. restrict _everyone_ not under these laws to access the resource.

If you block Germany for different copyright laws, why not France? Poland? Canada? (My naive assumption is that these laws are not the same worldwide and differ in gazillion edgecases between countries, even if otherwise somewhat compatible. That assumption might be wrong of course. IANAL)


I agree with you. Following every law is neither practical and in the case of censorship even counterproductive. I just wanted to point out that the reaction of the court isn’t as entirely pointless as it may seem on first thought.


PGLAF is incorporated in the US, their site is hosted in the US and their employees live in the US. Tell me again why they need to worry about the law of any country but the US?

It's up to the German courts/government to deny access to sites that break their laws, not try to impose their law on people outside their jurisdiction.


You don‘t want to tell me that a US court would show any restraint if a non-US based person violated American copyright?


For many years, China felt no urge to follow international copyright agreements. It was popular in certain circles to buy pirated Chinese editions (in English) of textbooks because they were very cheap.

Likewise, Microsoft has long had problems with pirated versions of Windows. Further, DVDs and CDs....

The general response from US courts was, "eh, what can we do?"


US rightsholders have been seriously abusing copyright outside of US borders. I personally am not okay with it.

If Germany's laws must be applied to a US business, then the US is prima facie not sovereign.


I think you have a big shock coming about how international law works and applies to websites outside of their country.


> I just wanted to point out that the reaction of the court isn’t as entirely pointless as it may seem on first thought.

And I think you’re right to do so!

Honestly, regarding the whole case, I think the court has erred in accepting the publisher’s argument that Project Gutenberg is a valid target for a lawsuit in Germany.

If the publisher wants the books removed it should sue in the US, if it wants to prevent access from Germany it should seek another local remedy.


They have no legal basis for the books being removed in the US, since they are in the public domain there. If they can't make German law stick, they have no recourse.


They can go for the ISPs, or push for some German law to restrict local access. Doesn't mean they should, though.


Again, said ISPs are US-based, and the only precedent for blocking in the US is DMCA, which considers these works public domain.


I'm referring to local ISPs that German users use to access the Internet. Presumably the court can order them to block access to resources.


> I think this is an untenable position as it would mean that any website, published from any country, hosted on servers in any country, would have to abide by the laws of the world’s 193 countries.

I disagree. The way we're going, the internet will be just like traditional trade. There will be ports and customs to bring things into your country, and if you want to host a site you'd only assume you're hosting it in your country.

It would be the death of the internet (are national internets still the internet? maybe some countries will remain relatively open), but the process began a long time ago.

It is caused by local interests who can control parliaments and courts, it is caused by national security interests and censorship requirements.

The fracturing of the internet. I wouldn't've guessed it would happen when I first logged in to slashdot many years ago, but I don't see it getting stopped.


if we followed your reasoning, you are able to provide anything illegal at a website, simply by hosting it in a country which you dont really target (eg isle of man).

thus, courts must be able to ask for what they did in the case of gutenberg.

by the way i dont see the big problem, except if the fines were big (maybe they were like only 200 usd)


A German court has no authority to compel a US company to block a subset of IP addresses though. If they want to enforce domestic policy they only have the right to force domestic companies to perform the block (i.e, by requiring that all German ISPs block access to the site).

A website would need to comply with German laws iff they have operations in Germany.


> I think this is an untenable position as it would mean that any website, published from any country, hosted on servers in any country, would have to abide by the laws of the world’s 193 countries.

No. If you read the court order, they are arguing, that gutenberg.org is targeted at Germans. There are a few reason:

1. there's a link on the front page to view the site in German

2. there's a similar German project: http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/

3. Gutenberg was after all German and .org isn't .us

4. gutenberg.org was mentioned quite a lot in the German media

Also, let's not forget, that gutenberg.org was contacted about this in advance, multiple times.

So yeah: If you do a website and target a different country, ignore emails about legal issues from citizens of that country for months, you should start to think about respecting the laws of that country.


None of those pass muster.

1. There are plenty of German-speakers not living in Germany.

2. Is that organization somehow affiliated with project gutenberg? Or did it simply use the name, which gutenberg probably doesn't care to trademark and wouldn't have the funds to legally enforce anyway.

3. You must know that hardly anyone uses .us.

4. So all it takes to be subject to a country's courts is for that country's media to bring up your activities?

If you think those points create any sort of legal nexus in Germany, that would also imply that most activism and protest against authoritarian countries' laws should be illegal, with those responsible subject to the authoritarian regimes' legal systems. That is untenable if you have an ounce of respect for free speech or liberal values or a free internet.

Apply the reasoning to the laws of certain Middle Eastern countries. China. North Korea.


> Is that organization somehow affiliated with project gutenberg? Or did it simply use the name, which gutenberg probably doesn't care to trademark and wouldn't have the funds to legally enforce anyway.

The failure to protect their trademark in Germany would actually demonstrate that they are not operating in Germany.


Those points can't be picked apart like you did. They add up and make it reasonable to argue that gutenberg.org is very well known in Germany and that lots of Germans have downloaded the books in question. The copyright owners are still selling those here and have probably already lost sales due to this. They tried to contact gutenberg.org, but where ignored. This isn't about free speech amd censorship.

> If you think those points create any sort of legal nexus in Germany, that would also imply that most activism and protest against authoritarian countries' laws should be illegal

illegal where?

> 3. You must know that hardly anyone uses .us.

I really didn't know. .de is very common in Germany.


> Those points can't be picked apart like you did. They add up

Others are doing a fine job of taking apart the specifics, but it's important to understand why this form of argument is itself a fallacy.

Inference works by taking into account new evidence and using it to adjust the probability with which you believe something to be true. So if you see Bob wearing a red shirt, you are more likely to believe that Bob owns a red shirt. Could still be that he has borrowed it or something, but it's now more likely he owns one than it was previously. By contrast, if you go all through Bob's bedroom and find zero red shirts, that makes it less likely, even though it's still possible he owns one that isn't in his bedroom.

The problem with allowing plaintiffs or prosecutors to play this game is that they can take the list of everything you've ever done, ignore everything that makes what they're trying to prove less likely and present only the list of things that make it more likely. If you look only at that evidence then each piece of it increases the probability that you believe what they want you to believe, regardless of whether it's actually true. How guilty they can make you look is directly proportional to their level of resources in finding things that make you look bad, independent of your actual guilt.

> I really didn't know. .de is very common in Germany.

Most countries have .co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk, etc. The US doesn't have those. US companies use .com, .org, .net, etc. regardless that they're nominally not US-specific.


The US does have .us - it was actually the first ccTLD - and a complex hierarchy under it, it's just not commonly used for historical reasons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.us


It's not commonly used because the hierarchy is weird. Originally the names had to be four deep, containing both the state and the locality, which is silly since all but the smallest operations span localities and even small companies often change locality. So they eventually allowed registrations directly at .us but there is still no .us equivalent to .org.uk.


> The problem with allowing plaintiffs or prosecutors to play this game is that they can take the list of everything you've ever done, ignore everything that makes what they're trying to prove less likely and present only the list of things that make it more likely. If you look only at that evidence then each piece of it increases the probability that you believe what they want you to believe, regardless of whether it's actually true.

Isn't there a defence? I also don't believe the court would like to find out that the prosecutor lied.


> Isn't there a defence?

There is, but it's a resource battle. Governments and large corporations can spend a hundred times more hours on something than regular individuals and small nonprofits. If they both had the same resources there might be a 90% chance the defendant wins, but create a large enough resource asymmetry and it flips the other way.

This is one of the main reasons for the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard in criminal cases, but that doesn't apply to civil cases even when the plaintiff is 10,000 times the size of the defendant, and isn't enough in criminal cases where the defendant is relying on a criminally over-worked public defender and everything is greased to mass-produce guilty pleas and discourage trials.

> I also don't believe the court would like to find out that the prosecutor lied.

It isn't strictly lying, it's just not pointing out inconvenient facts.

Prosecutors can get into trouble for this when it's really damning, like not disclosing a witness who says it was somebody else, but that's separate from all the banality like the number of man hours they spent investigating you without finding anything before they could come up with what they're presenting.


I see, thanks for the explanation.


> illegal where?

On the internet, where project gutenberg is located. The argument put forward, that you repeated, implies just as much that someone could be prosecuted in a Chinese court for publishing a harsh (to the point of being illegal in China) criticism of China named freexinjiang.com, at least if the site included a Chinese version. And that, since it refers specifically to a Chinese province/area, would have at least some nexus to China, whereas Project Gutenberg has zero connection to Germany.

Arguing the connection by language (the fact that German-language books of note exist to be digitized does not imply a connection to Germany the country) or Gutenberg's biography (what does the nationality of Gutenberg the historical person have to do with anything? Is shakespeare.com subject to uk laws?) is insanity.

> I really didn't know [.us isn't commonly used]

I didn't realize how this might not be intuitive to people in other countries, so...

The U.S. mostly invented / was the testbed for the internet. It's standard in the U.S., and for almost any English-language website that's not seeking to be tied to a specific country of origin, to use .com .net or .org. I get that people in countries where English isn't official or where they're targeting the country's population as visitors will prefer .cc tlds either to indicate that their site targets that country's residents, or targets people who speak that country's primary language, but .us is not at all the norm in the USA; .com .net and .org generally serve that purpose, and .us is a distant fourth [1].

But, supposing .us were the primary domain used by U.S. organizations, even if Project Gutenberg didn't use .org but instead used a generic TLD, it would still have zero to do with Germany.

[1] It's actually 6th, behind .xyz and .info, but those two probably have a higher percentage of spammy junk websites and email domains, so .us might be fourth in domains that aren't junk ecommerce advertising sites.


> On the internet, where project gutenberg is located. The argument put forward, that you repeated, implies just as much that someone could be prosecuted in a Chinese court for publishing a harsh (to the point of being illegal in China) criticism of China named freexinjiang.com, at least if the site included a Chinese version. And that, since it refers specifically to a Chinese province/area, would have at least some nexus to China, whereas Project Gutenberg has zero connection to Germany.

You can be. A US court would be pretty reluctant to enforce it, but you can and always could.


> On the internet

I still don't understand what that means exactly.

> whereas Project Gutenberg has zero connection to Germany.

I disagree.

> what does the nationality of Gutenberg the historical person have to do with anything? Is shakespeare.com subject to uk laws?

There's a lot inbetween of

zero connection with country X

and

subject to it's law.

So regarding shakesbear.com: No, not necessarily.


> There's a lot inbetween

No, there isn't. Or are you saying Austria could have a greater claim of jurisdiction over Tesla because of its name?

Germany has no more "ownership" over the German language than England has over English.


Are you really asserting that

a) anything in the German language falls under the jurisdiction of the German government, and that

b) a relationship bearing on legal jurisdiction between two otherwise completely unrelated entities can be created by otherwise unrelated third parties?


Point a is covered under GDPR. If you have German on your website their courts have jurisdiction. The language is so vague that they will have jurisdiction over all the world when it comes to PI privacy laws.


If you have German on your website their courts have jurisdiction.

Nope:

"In order to determine whether such a controller or processor is offering goods or services to data subjects who are in the Union, it should be ascertained whether it is apparent that the controller or processor envisages offering services to data subjects in one or more Member States in the Union. (...) the mere accessibility of the controller’s, processor’s or an intermediary’s website in the Union, of an email address or of other contact details, or the use of a language generally used in the third country where the controller is established, is insufficient to ascertain such intention" (emphasis mine)

As long as German is used in the country where PG is located - and it is - then it's not enough to show that they're targeting German citizens.

https://gdpr-info.eu/recitals/no-23/


That's...a little disturbing.


a) No

b) What do you mean exactly?


Ignored? Where are you seeing that?


In the court order.


1) So? There are many German-speakers who live in the US and in other countries outside of Germany. There is a huge difference between "targeting" people who speak German and those who live in Germany.

2) So they should sue to block that one if they believe it is doing something wrong.

3) Huh? What possible difference does it make what country someone born in 1468 was born in? And, apparently it's a sad state of affairs in Germany today compared to the time of Gutenberg who actually did something to increase access to written materials.

4) So they should sue the German media for mentioning it. I'm pretty sure that the Project Gutenberg team can't stop the German media from mentioning their web site.

It's a US-based web site, with US-based staff, with no Germany-based connections or business. It's clear that it is outside the proper jurisdiction of German courts and that the only reason for reaching this decision is economically-driven corruption. The whole thing is embarrassing.

Or, you could ask every Germany-based web site to obey all the laws of every country in the world.


Without commenting on the other arguments-#3 seems ludicrous. Claiming that a country's local law applies to an institution in another country "because it's named after someone who lived in our territory" seems a pretty ethically and legally impotent argument. Especially when you consider that "Germany" in its current sense did not exist until many hundreds of years after Gutenberg died. Should modern French courts get to censor any global website using "Louis" in the domain? "Napoleon"? Or does it only apply to last names?


It was just a small point which might make German think "this is a website that is legal in Germany" or even "this is a website from an entity in Germany". But it isn't, it's a US website, legal in the US and illegal in Germany.


"The legal guidance PGLAF received is that US law requires that such proceedings would have taken place in the US, and in fact any attempts at enforcement of the judgement would need to occur in the US Court system. PGLAF already informed Plaintiff and the German Court that the US Court system is the appropriate venue for Plaintiff's concerns. Plaintiff declined.

"Alternatively, international treaties - notably the Berne Convention and related treaties - provide mediation processes through the World Intellectual Property Organization. PGLAF offered to undergo this mediation process, and Plaintiff declined."


1. The german language page is actually targeting Liechtenstein, not Germany.

2. Similar projects are not the actual project in question.

3. ICANN is not a governmental agency; filing for a particular TLD is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for belonging to a particular country's jurisdiction. Being named after a 15th century German is not an argument worthy of response.

4. Popularity in a country is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for that country to have jurisdiction over an organization.


On point 3 : The fact that the (original) Gutenberg is in germany is irrelevant. Gutenberg here refers to the Gutenberg bible, not the place.

And in any case are we now assigning global trademark rights to cities / countries for names used in their jurisdiction? To give an example, Budweiser would be subject to Czech jurisdiction, since it is named after a Czech town. This is not much of an argument.


So yeah: If you do a website and target a different country, ignore emails about legal issues from citizens of that country for months, you should start to think about respecting the laws of that country.

And once again we get this lie being said around here. You should really just be honest with your political comments and come out with what you really want to say.


I have no idea what you're talking about. Do you want to imply that the prosecutor lied about this?


Because all German speaking people reside in Germany right?


No, but most do. So translating to German and offering German books (pretty well known ones btw) should get you thinking about German laws for a moment.


Most speakers of German don't live in Germany.

There are roughly 200 million German speakers in the world, but only 82 million residents of Germany.


Sure, you know what I mean though.


> If you do a website and target a different country, ignore emails about legal issues from citizens of that country for months, you should start to think about respecting the laws of that country.

Surprisingly then, why Doitsche Welle still exists without any lawsuit from abroad.


> Doitsche Welle

What?


I guess dw.com.


> International websites have to respect local laws.

No way.

If I, a US citizen, publish a website hosted in the US that is critical of the Turkish president, should a Turkish court be able to compel me to take it down or block access from Turkey?

What if I'm Israeli and I publish open source software, source and binary hosted in Israel, that is against US hacking laws. Should a US court be able to order an Israeli to stop doing something that is legal in Israel?

(Both of these are hypothetical, I don't know if there are such laws.)

If I have no business in a country (or pseudo country like EU) they should have no jurisdiction over me. I shouldn't have to comply with every crazy authoritarian, free speech suppressing, restricted use country in the world.

If countries want to prosecute their own citizens for visiting my site, consuming my content, or using my software, that is their business.

Now if I do business in that country... that is different, then they might have some legal jurisdiction over me.


Well bad news. The world doesn't and has never worked in the way you want it to.

Countries generally find enforcing their laws against entities with nothing inside their borders at all a bit more hassle than it's worth, but it has never, ever been the case that they can't.


Another example:

If you're in a country where child pornography is legal, should all other countries just accept it?

If you're in a country where doxxing is legal, should the victims not be able to do anything against it?


Yes and yes.

Other countries can ban their citizens from accessing the child porn. They cannot ban a citizen of another country from hosting said porn if it's legal there.

This is obvious. Whether it's about porn, dissident political opinions or my cooking blog makes no difference.

Repeat after me: your country has no right to order citizens of other countries who live outside of your country to do anything. And vice versa, of course.

On a more personal note, here - a bit east from you - there was a time when your government could order people around, and it did. We don't want to repeat that, which is what you're calling for. There's a lot of blood behind some countries becoming independent. Show some respect for that.

That some countries could use their independence to allow child porn is unfortunate. I still won't support invading them over it. You need to realize that you're arguing for just that - infringing their independence - just without the tanks entering the picture (for now). Honestly, stop that. There are still people alive who remember the last time your folks did that. At the very least, let those people die out before doing it again.


> They cannot ban a citizen of another country from hosting said porn if it's legal there.

That's not what's happening though, gutenberg.org was only ordered to make the 18 books not accessible from German IPs. No one talked about a hosting ban.


The rule is: you can't, in any way, compel citizens of other countries living outside your country to do anything. You really shouldn't even try, unless it's with the cooperation with the other country (just fill a lawsuit there!).

If you do try, it's a straight path to extraordinary renditions, drone strikes, assassinations and other such joyous things. I'm not saying that it has to lead to this, but it could, it did in the past, and we've instituted a rule to prevent that. Please, honor the rules we've all agreed upon!

Now, back to the issue in question. If you put a site on the Internet, you're by default giving access to it to everyone - you need to put some effort into it to make filtering traffic possible. It doesn't matter how much effort is needed - just that you have to do something.

This court order tries to compel PG to do that "something". It doesn't matter, at all, how many books are involved. It doesn't matter that it's "just for German IPs". It doesn't matter how easy it is to implement. What's important is that the court tries to compel citizens of another country to do something. No matter how small it is, it's simply wrong. It shouldn't happen!

The court could force ISPs in its country to filter traffic so that you can't access those books. It could make filtering these books to be hardcoded in home routers and public access points. It could, for all I care, ban the Internet in its entirety - inside your country. It cannot, and should not even try, to force PG to do anything.

Now, there are exceptions to everything, established precedents, international agreements - I'm not a lawyer, I don't know if there's a legal argument which would allow the interference in other country affairs in this case. What I'm saying is that such interference, as a rule, is not allowed, supporting it should be viewed with suspicion and every argument presented should be very carefully scrutinized and verified.

Again, as a rule, you don't force foreigners who never set foot on your soil to do anything. Infringing on another country sovereignty is simply a no-go (unless you have a lot of nukes, apparently, but I digress). Why is it hard to understand?


> If you do try, it's a straight path to extraordinary renditions, drone strikes, assassinations and other such joyous things. I'm not saying that it has to lead to this, but it could, it did in the past, and we've instituted a rule to prevent that.

Could you elaborate?


> If you're in a country where child pornography is legal, should all other countries just accept it?

No, they could try to convince the country to change it laws. Maybe if they think the issue is important enough blockade the country. Maybe even with help of other countries that have the same idea about the problem. But they can't prosecute a citizen of that country for doing anything legal in that country. It's possible to try to change the other countries laws using diplomacy.


Other countries can try to block that content, or they can try to punish their own residents for viewing it.

Why would residents of the permissive country comply with a foreign court order?


> try to block

Excellent phrasing. They can try. And they'll fail. Blocking is trivially easy to avoid and circumvent. As long as there's no jurisdiction, a country can't take any action against a criminal site, it can only take steps to protect its population from harmful outside influence, which is by blocking. The offenders remain free and often unidentified.

But when there is jurisdiction, a country can take offensive action. It gives legal ground to investigate the involved persons, it gives permission to hack the website, it gives permission to hijack it and replace it by honeypots. It gives the weapons to not just temporarily silence criminals, but to destroy their enterprise and bring them to justice.

Remote jurisdiction is the base of modern countermeasures against websites and servers involved in drugs, child pornography, terrorism, and human trafficking. Without it, the only logical way to protect your population is to erect deep-scanning firewalls and abolishing free traffic across national networks, much like China and Iran are doing.


> But when there is jurisdiction, a country can take offensive action.

That isn't what jurisdiction means. You're describing the digital equivalent of covert operations in a foreign country.

> Without it, the only logical way to protect your population is to erect deep-scanning firewalls and abolishing free traffic across national networks, much like China and Iran are doing.

It would work perfectly well to publish free open source scanning software and allow your citizens to voluntarily use it if they want to be "protected" from such things.

Unless your citizens are the perpetrators rather than the victims, but in that case you haven't got a jurisdictional problem.


Covert operations are by definition extra-judicial. They knowingly break laws and international agreements and rely on diplomacy to take care of it later. That's not what's happening with offensive action against criminal sites. If you run a gambling website on a local server without a proper permit in many countries, you'll get sued first. If you don't take down the website when a judge orders you to, police will try to move on to confiscating the server (with a warrant) and/or blocking access (with a warrant). If you evade those measures, eventually computer crime units will move on to hacking into your server (with a warrant) to locate and disable it. It's simple enforcement of the law. Hacking is an extreme measure, but not extra-judicial. Even when servers are abroad and regular confiscation isn't an option, often local law enforcement will seize servers on behalf of foreign jurisdiction. Only when local police is unwilling to cooperate will hacking be used. And it's used all the time, with the appropriate warrants and within the bounds of law. Don't conflate this with NSA hacking which is very extra-judicial and most definitely illegal.

The notion of "voluntary protection" is ridiculous. "Here, citizen, use this app to be warned when you're entering areas with drug violence. Now you're protected." Law enforcement isn't only supposed to protect citizens, but also to combat criminality. Many materials are treated very differently whether you're a consumer or distributor. If criminals run an illegal gambling website, drug trading website, revenge porn website, or any other illegal website you might think of, then even under your narrow interpretation of jurisdiction it would be law enforcement's duty to shut down that website's access nationwide, and not rely on some sort of bullshit voluntary protection.


> Covert operations are by definition extra-judicial.

Might want to take that up the the military judges who make decisions about them all the time.

They're extra-judicial in the target countries, but so is what you want to do.

> It's simple enforcement of the law.

It's law enforcement taking action in a foreign country without that country's permission. In violation of their laws.

You're saying it's OK for the US to hack a gambling site hosted in a foreign country because it's illegal in the US. How does that not justify China hacking a pro-democracy website hosted in the US because it's illegal in China?

> "Here, citizen, use this app to be warned when you're entering areas with drug violence. Now you're protected."

The US State Department does exactly that when the area of drug violence is in another country. What are they supposed to do? Invade?

> If criminals run an illegal gambling website, drug trading website, revenge porn website, or any other illegal website you might think of, then even under your narrow interpretation of jurisdiction it would be law enforcement's duty to shut down that website's access nationwide, and not rely on some sort of bullshit voluntary protection.

People have been placing illegal bets by mail since the invention of mail. That has never justified the government in reading everybody's mail, much less bombing Ireland after their local law enforcement doesn't put a stop to it.


> Other countries can try to block that content

Opens the door for censorship.

> they can try to punish their own residents for viewing it.

Impossible without more surveillance

> Why would residents of the permissive country comply with a foreign court order?

Let's say you want to travel to the country at some point in the future.


> If you're in a country where child pornography is legal, should all other countries just accept it?

Yes.

> If you're in a country where doxxing is legal, should the victims not be able to do anything against it?

No.


If you have Turkish users, you ARE doing business in Turkey. That's obvious.


If you operate a bookstore in New York City, you are doing business in the US and not Turkey. That is true even if someone from Turkey comes into your bookstore, buys one of your books and takes it home with them to Turkey.

Why should the internet be any different?


> "International websites have to respect local laws."

German companies operating in the US need to respect US law. As the article noted:

"Q: Why did this all take place in the German Court system, rather than the US - where Plaintiff does business as Macmillan, and PGLAF is based?

A: The legal guidance PGLAF received is that US law requires that such proceedings would have taken place in the US, and in fact any attempts at enforcement of the judgement would need to occur in the US Court system. PGLAF already informed Plaintiff and the German Court that the US Court system is the appropriate venue for Plaintiff's concerns. Plaintiff declined."

Also, German courts need to respect international law and treaties. As the article noted:

"Alternatively, international treaties - notably the Berne Convention and related treaties - provide mediation processes through the World Intellectual Property Organization. PGLAF offered to undergo this mediation process, and Plaintiff declined.

International treaties explicitly and unambiguously support PGLAF's legal guidance as described above: that the copyright status in one country is not impacted or enforceable or otherwise relevant in other countries. Plaintiff managed to find a German Court, and some precedents from Germany (and, after the lawsuit was filed, from the EU), which were willing to flaunt international treaties by developing a theory that PGLAF is under jurisdiction of the German Court system."


I have to be blunt here, whomever is giving PGLAF legal advice here almost certainly did not advise that last paragraph, because there is abundant precedent that it's incorrect.

In addition, EU copyright harmonisation means that the publisher would succeed in this case in every country in the EU (or just getting the judgement from the German court carried up to the European court). Will PGLAF block the entire EU when that happens?


The reaction of blocking access to all of Project Gutenberg only for german users and not for european user strongly suggests rather a kneejerk reaction/retaliation than an abundance of caution on their part.


> I can see the courts point: International websites have to respect local laws

No, they don’t, and shouldn’t.

I’m free to offend the sensibilities of China, disgrace the Ayatollah, and violate a wide variety of other “local laws” from the comfort of my home or workplace.

If those places don’t like it, they’re also free to censor content until such time that their populace won’t tolerate it any longer.



But they had to wait for him to enter US soil


Not only that, but his company was taking bets from US citizens, which is a much stronger argument for presence in a territory than simply "your website is accessible to our citizens."


If your website breaks moral decency laws in Saudi Arabia, and a court there orders you to close your website, would you comply?

Look at it from another perspective - if a German court has a problem with German citizens breaking German law in Germany, it should perhaps pursue those citizens and judge them. A US website can't(and shouldn't) be breaking any German laws by existing in US - maybe you could make an argument that German people accessing the website from Germany are breaking German law, but that's not what the court is saying. The court is saying that because project Gutenberg hosts books in German, then Germany has the right to judge them - which is obviously bollocks, you can speak German or write in German without having anything to do with Germany, a country cannot own a language.


There is the idea of universal jurisdiction for certain crimes, but it's usually stuff like genocide and really nasty stuff, not copyright infringement.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_jurisdiction


Yes - Israel used this rather famously on ex-Nazis that they "extralegally imported" from around the world, even though a) the accused was not an Israeli citizen, b) none of the victims were Israeli citizens at the time of the crime, c) the crimes did not occur on Israeli territory. In most other cases those would be major jurisdictional issues.


[flagged]


Nit: Kissinger was actually tried as a war criminal in Spain under the principal of universal jurisdiction. Assuming he did not visit Spain he was immune to actual punishment, of course, but "winning" did not make him immune to being tried under that legal principal.


That’s cool. I think I’ll try Tony Blair as a war criminal tomorrow in my bedroom. It’ll have the same practical effect.


That's how sovereignty works. You can enforce laws in territory you control.


> If your website breaks moral decency laws in Saudi Arabia, and a court there orders you to close your website, would you comply?

Strawman, because we aren't talking about closing a website, but just blocking access from one country.

Regarding your example: Yes, I would comply and block access from Saudi Arabia to my website.


But....why? In a certain way, it's just some random court from a country you've never been to ordering you to do something. Why would you comply. There are ways foreign entities and governments can pursue an American company through the American legal system - the plaintiff decided not to do that here and decided to go through the German system instead. Which is all fine and dandy, but I still don't understand why an American company with no legal presence in Germany should obey rulings of the German court.


There's no reason to obey a foreign order, as long as (1) your jurisdiction's authority doesn't extradite, and (2) you never enter the reach of jurisdiction you offended,


> But....why? In a certain way, it's just some random court from a country you've never been to ordering you to do something. Why would you comply.

In the beginning (like it was in this case with gutenberg.org), it isn't a court order, but just an email, asking me if I could respect their local laws.

Books becoming public domain example: In Germany it's 75 years after the author's death, in the US some amount of years after the publication. Who am I to judge which approach is "right"?

Btw: We're suffering quite a lot here in Germany because of software patents in the US.

> Which is all fine and dandy, but I still don't understand why an American company with no legal presence in Germany should obey rulings of the German court.

Don't you consider a website in German, accessible from Germany, which looks totally legal for most Germans as some kind of legal presence in Germany?


> Don't you consider a website in German, accessible from Germany, which looks totally legal for most Germans as some kind of legal presence in Germany?

No.

The site is created in some set of locations, and is hosted on servers in some set of locations. If none of those locations is in Germany, Germany has no personal jurisdiction.

(At least under US law, which is what counts when it comes to enforcing judgement against someone in the US.)


By this logic the US has no jurisdiction to act against a child pornography website aimed at Americans, used by Americans, with pictures of American children, as long as the website is hosted in Russia, where child pornography remains legal (or any of the other countries where it's legal and/or authorities don't care).

Remember, this means that the FBI has no right to even investigate the persons involved in it. No jurisdiction means no investigation.


Your example goes too far -- the FBI would absolutely have jurisdiction to investigate the appearance of American children on such a site, as well as to go after Americans who used the site, because that involves the commission of crimes on American soil.


Oh sure they could investigate, I didn't express myself well enough. But they're not going to get much without internal server data. They wouldn't be able to undertake any action against the site, much like American officers can't come to Russia to arrest suspects. They would be wholly dependent on cooperation with local authorities, who wouldn't care at all because it's not illegal in Russia.


> against a child pornography website


But then German ISPs will be ordered to block the content in Germany. I don't know what's better, at least now the gutenberg.org frontpage is still accessible and theres an explanation which wouldn't be the case with an DNS block.


The German ISPs blocking the content is far better. In that case, Germans are living by German laws, and Americans are living by US laws. The alternative is to expect everyone to live by any law anywhere in the world, which is probably impossible in cases where things conflict.


> everyone to live by any law anywhere

The site is obly blocked in Germany.


Sure, but Germans having an issue with an American site just cost that American company €50,000 for no reason at all. I agree with the poster saying that if Germany had an issue with content they could have just blocked the website themselves.


The books being available for download for free might have cost a German company even more. So I wouldn't say "no reason at all".


Like I said before - there is a legal path for foreign companies to sue American companies under the American legal system. If the plaintiff could demonstrate loses due to actions by project Gutenberg, I'm 100% certain that an American court would have ruled in favour of the plaintiff. But this €50k isn't even going to the publisher - it's in fees to the German court system, which - in my opinion - could have been completely and totally ignored. So when I said "no reason at all" I meant that PG will now be paying €50k for something that they shouldn't be a part of.


Do you have immense respect for Saudi Arabia's legal system, or fear of recourse from them? Do you just enjoy being subjugated?

If a country doesn't like my site, they're free to block it themselves instead of compelling me to.


I would think that if Saudi Arabia can't access my website, it's their loss, not mine ;)


Confusing the government of a country with its residents, especially a dictatorship like Saudi Arabia, is a harmful error. Sure, it's not your loss, but it's not their loss either -- it's innocent 3rd party's loss.


At some point, the residents of a country are responsible for its government. The inverse of the "consent of the governed" principle.


Saudi Arabia is run by a king. Its citizens don't get to vote them out of office. They are ruled by a dictator and many of them do NOT consent to being governed by the dictator.

Just because they'd get slaughtered in a revolt and don't have the ability to overthrow the king, doesn't mean that they have consented to the actions of the unelected people ruling over them.


https://cand.pglaf.org/germany/gutenberg-lawsuit-judgement-E...

"The defendants are ordered, on penalty of an administrative fine of up to EUR 250,000.00 or, alternatively, imprisonment of up to 6 months, for each case of non- compliance, said imprisonment to be imposed on the second defendant, to cease and desist from making the following works publicly available or letting them be made publicly available, namely:..."


What is it that distinguishes a web site from an international web site?

Do you feel that laws on web site content passed in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Vietnam should apply to web sites created or operated by you or posts made by you on line? Would you expect yourself and other global posters and journalists to be bound, for example, by Thailand’s Lese Majeste laws on criticism or comment related to their king?


gutenberg.org has a link to view it in German on the front page. I guess if you provide several translations and use a top level domain like .org, you are more likely an international web site than an English-only .us web site.


German is spoken in countries other than Germany: looking at only countries where the German language enjoys some form of official or co-official status, we have Germany (of course), Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Denmark, Hungary, Italy, and Poland also formally recognise German as a minority language.

That's not to mention the countless expats/second language speakers around the world.

Having a German language version of your website/product is by no means equivalent to being subject to the jurisdiction of Germany the country.


> Having a German language version of your website/product is by no means equivalent to being subject to the jurisdiction of Germany the country.

Never said that.


All websites that are not intentionally blocked from specific regions by the website operator, a government or internet service providers are available everywhere in the world. English is the world's most spoken language. In effect, most websites are international websites.

That doesn't make them subject to the laws of every country. Most legal systems do not accept the standard the German court used and require a more significant physical, legal or economic connection to a country before a website may be subject to its laws.


That's why the reasoning of the court went beyond "It's an international website".


But it did not use reasoning that courts in most other parts of the world accept, including the US coults it would have to ask to enforce its judgement in the absence of voluntary compliance.

PGLAF appears to be complying because it wants to win an appeal in German court, which might be compromised by ignoring the ruling of a lower German court. If PGLAF decided to ignore the ruling, there would likely be no consequences.


Only if you really don't like the idea of the Internet should you advocate for that kind of thing. If every website would have to comply with every country's laws this would immediately lead to almost complete segregation of the Internet. Why should anybody take the risks of making their websites internationally available? It's hard enough to ensure that your website complies with your own country's laws. It's impossible to do that for every country.

If a country doesn't like what a website provides they are free to block it at the border, just like with physical goods.


International websites have to respect local laws

I keep on seeing this type of political agenda comments parroted around HN lately, when everybody knows it's not true.

It's not a german website and absolutely does not have to respect German law.


Generally speaking, no, you only have to follow the laws of the county where you are resident. I don't know why Project Gutenberg is taking any notice of the court case at all, although it probably should warn its contributors not to work on projects that aren't yet public domain in their own countries, to avoid any risk of legal action.

In this case the legal situation seems clear. The case is about several books written by Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann and Alfred Döblin, who died less than 70 years ago, and all their works are still in copyright in Germany. However, copyright law in the US is more complex, and their works published before 1923 are public domain there.

Project Gutenberg has every right to publish these works from a web server located in the United States. If Germany doesn't like it, it can order that Gutenberg's website be blocked, like is already done with sites like The Pirate Bay in many countries, and with many other sites in restrictive countries like China.


The court decision in question, in part, says,

"The defendants are ordered, on penalty of an administrative fine of up to EUR 250,000.00 or, alternatively, imprisonment of up to 6 months, for each case of non- compliance, said imprisonment to be imposed on the second defendant, to cease and desist from making the following works publicly available or letting them be made publicly available, namely:..."

The court has not ordered the site blocked, but the texts in question taken down.


Sure, but if the defendants don't have any interests in Germany, how would the claim be enforced?


> International websites have to respect local laws.

What does "local laws" mean? Laws local to me and the website I run? Sure.

Laws local to someone in the world (aka laws non-local to me)? No I'm not going to obey Chinese laws.


Yes, I absolutely agree with you there. Copyright across international borders is really complex but the only important factor can't be the country of origin. (This would obviously create copyright paradises and is generally unpractical)

If you publish a German book on a site with parts of it written in German either you will get problems with German copyright or the person downloading the content. Both solutions are problematic but only the former can be effective so this is what courts will decide in those cases. BTW I'm currently studying law in Germany and this is a lower local court and there will be a new trial at the Oberlandesgericht. Because of the importance of the case it would also be quite possible that a federal court will take a look at it in the end, so this is far from over.


What is a "German book"? A book in German? A book "owned" by a German?

Are you comfortable having United States laws apply to you because you are using a "United States web site" in English? (Actually, the latter doesn't matter; the US doesn't have an official language.)


There is an established treaty for handling this particular issue. The court in question has decided not to follow that treaty.


Could you be more specific?


The Berne Convention specifies minimum copyright provisions (equivalent to current US and German practice, IIUC), requires other countries to protect works as strongly as their own, and describes how to resolve conflicts (WIPA).


> International websites have to respect local laws

No. A website doesn’t really exist unless a person visits it. It’s up to the user to respect local laws. If certain content is illegal somewhere, that’s not the fault of the website. The website isn’t in the country of concern. Why is it there problem? It’s up to the user to choose if they want to break local laws by consuming “illegal” content.

If I start a phone sex number in the Cayman Islands and such phone systems are illegal to use in Germany, then why is it my problem? I am not forcing people to call, nor why should I care where a call comes from. The end user is the one violating the law by calling my service. It isn’t like I am broadcasting.

Same concept. A website is no different than a phone number.

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