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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 10:47 GMT
Germany takes on 'Farmbelt Fuehrer'
Website showing racist material
Neo-Nazi activity on the web is a constant problem
The German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, is battling a prominent American neo-Nazi over the rights to a web address.

Gary Lauck, a Nebraska-based neo-Nazi who is known in the US as the "Farmbelt Fuehrer" for his racist views, is using a address incorporating the German name for the Interior Ministry.

Otto Schily: Struggling to use German law against neo-Nazi websites
The German news magazine Der Spiegel reports that Mr Schily, of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, has already registered additional names, including interior minister as a precaution.

He now wants to contest Mr Lauck's domains through the UN Domain Name Dispute Resolution service, also known as the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Mr Schily has already managed to wrest control of an internet address for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution from Mr Lauck.

Gary Lauck
Mr Lauck was convicted by a German court in 1996 for inciting racial hatred
That address had been used by Mr Lauck's for one of his websites since March last year. However, Mr Schily put pressure on Mr Lauck's internet service provider to hand control back to the German Government without involving the WIPO.

The magazine quoted an internet law expert as saying this victory was significant as in the case of generic names such as "Verfassungsschutz" - meaning constitutional protection - there was no certainty that the authority alone had a legal entitlement to it.

Mr Lauck is no stranger to the German authorities, as in 1996 he was convicted by a German court for inciting racial hatred and deported to the US in 1999.

Legal battles

The incident is the latest in a series of high-profile legal battles regarding the steady rise of neo-Nazi activity on the web.

In December 2000, German legal authorities ruled that websites aiming racist propaganda at German audiences could be prosecuted under German law.

And in early 2001, internet service provider Yahoo banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia on its pages, following a court case brought by French civil liberties groups.

In practice, however, any attempt at prosecuting websites for neo-Nazi content is hampered by free speech laws in other countries, particularly the United States.

See also:

19 Feb 01 | Europe
German Jews want internet action
03 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Yahoo looks for hate
16 Feb 00 | Americas
Cyber-racists 'safe in US'
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