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Thursday, May 28, 1998 Published at 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK


Porn sentence for ex-Compuserve chief in Germany

CompuServe in Germany was targeted by the authorities in 1995

The former head of the CompuServe online service in Germany has been given a two-year suspended sentence for spreading pornography over the Internet.

A court in Munich said there could be no law-free zones on the Net.

Felix Somm was head of CompuServe in Germany in 1995 when the authorities decided to take strong action against the proliferation of pornography on the Internet.

CompuServe, based in the United States, provides access to the Internet and hosts discussion forums where computer users can exchange messages, documents and images.

Prosecutors found examples of child pornography and other illegal images through its network and charged Somm with knowingly allowing it to reach CompuServe's customers.

It prompted the company to block worldwide access to parts of the Internet - and this in turn led to cries of censorship.

CompuServe later relaxed its policy and Germany now has a new law where access providers will not normally be held liable for material on the Internet, as long as they take reasonable precautions to block access to banned material.

In this light, the court's decision seems anachronistic, and both the defence and prosecution had called for Somm's acquittal.

But the judges, sentencing him to two years' probation said: "The accused is not a victim, He has abused the medium."

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