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  Censored links: Linking as a crime

The World Wide Web is constituted by documents linked with other documents, thus allowing access to referred documents. Censorship affects hyperlinks as well. Say, you publish an essay on racist propaganda on the Net and make link references to neo-nazi web sites. It goes without saying that you do not endorse neo-nazi pamphlets. By linking to these web sites you want your readers to get an idea of what you are writing about. Linking does not necessarily mean approving. Is this not evident?

According to Swiss and German prosecuting attorneys you may have committed a crime without having illegal intentions. From his web site Thomas Stricker, director of the Institute of Computer Systems at the ETH Zurich, has linked to an anti-racist web site with links to racist content in order to draw the attention to the difficulties legal regulation of the Net has to face. Neglecting his intentions, Swiss authorities instituted a criminal action against Stricker.

Another case, reported by the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, proves that not just links to racist resources or to resources with links to such resources are under prosecution. The Motion Picture Association of America sued to prevent Internet users from linking to websites that have DeCSS, a program helping Linux users play DVDs on their computers. The trial is scheduled for December.


Global Internet Liberty Campaign, Hollywood wants end to links, in: GILC Alert 4,4, April 24, 2000,

Wolfgang Näser, Allgemeines zum Thema "Homepage",

Florian Rötzer, Ab wann ist ein externer Link auf strafrechtlich relevante Inhalte selbst strafbar?, in: Telepolis, December 1, 1997

Florian Rötzer, Strafverfahren gegen ETH-Professor wegen Links zu rassistischen Websites, in: Telepolis, February 24, 2000

Florian Rötzer, Ab wievielen Zwischenschritten ist ein Link auf eine rechtswidrige Website strafbar, in: Telepolis, February 24, 2000

browse Report:
-4   Censorship and Free Speech
-3   The Privatization of Censorship
-2   Anonymity
-1   Eliminating online censorship: Freenet, Free Haven and Publius
0   Censored links: Linking as a crime