Court acquits German politician charged with aiding guerrillas on Internet

Copyright =A9 1997 Copyright =A9 1997 Reuter Information Service

BERLIN, Germany (June 30, 1997 12:56 p.m. EDT) - A left-wing German
politician who had been charged with aiding and supporting guerrilla acts
with information linked to her home page on the Internet was acquitted
Monday in a Berlin court.

The court ruled that Angela Marquardt, 25, could not be held responsible
for the contents of a magazine Germans could access via a hyperlink from
her home page. Marquardt is a former deputy leader of Germany's reform
communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

It ruled that she had made the magazine accessible before it published
instructions in June last year for anti-nuclear activists on how to
sabotage railway lines. It said she could not be punished for merely
maintaining the hyperlink.

A hyperlink is a section of highlighted text on a page which can be viewed
on the World Wide Web, the popular graphical part of the Internet computer

By clicking on the hyperlink with a computer mouse, the user is given
immediate access to another computer across the Internet where the linked
page has been stored.

The decision is fresh evidence of a new trend in the short history of
Internet regulation that seems to reflect the view that liability for
illegal material should rest with the author, not other users who link to
the documents or the network operators who provide access to the Internet.

Early attempts to impose stricter controls on freedom of expression over
the Internet are also being overturned as shown by a ruling in the United
States to overturn the Communications and Decency Act, which sought to ban
pornography and other material considered indecent by the bill's authors.

The Berlin court said it would be difficult to order users to make constant
checks for illegal information on Internet pages made accessible by
hyperlink because there was no legal basis for this.