As always on my blog, I am speaking for myself only.

Yesterday, flickr launched their German service and at the same time, disabled access to pictures marked as "moderate" as well as "restricted".

Think, flickr!

flickr (speaking through staff member heather) justifies this as follows: "The central problem is that Germany has much more stringent age verification laws than its neighboring countries and specifies much harsher penalties, including jail time, for those with direct responsibility"

flickr users in Germany (and surrounding countries) complain about flickr's censorship policy.

What seems to have happened here is a misinterpretation of German law. (But please remember that IANAL, I am only spending 20% of my studies on law, not 100%)<!--more--> The law they are probably refering to is § 184 in the German criminal law ("spreading pornographic material"). According to this, someone is to be fined, or punished with a jail sentence of up to a year for showing/giving/selling pornographic material to a minor. This is the case on the internet as well, unless there are "effective measures" in place to keep minors from accessing the material.

There are several notes to make: In order for this law to be applicable, the content in question has to be pornography. The German definition for pornography is rather restrictive: It is material exclusively or most predominantly intended to cause sexual arousal in the viewer. This means that events like "Nipplegate" (and photos of them) are a non-issue here, legally (just like in many other places in the world). Also for example, showing a woman in the shower, as a TV commercial for shower gel, is perfectly acceptable. When it comes to act photography, the distinction is harder of course but the decision leans towards "art" if the aesthetic aspects of a picture are emphasized (art is protected by the German constitution).

Moreover, according to a commentary on the law in question, for a content provider on the internet (like flickr) to get punished, it is not enough if they could have assumed there might be such content on their page. Instead, positive knowledge is required, i.e. they need to know about a particular illegal picture, (probably) leaving them with the option to take it down ASAP when they find it or are informed about it.

In any case, "Possibly not suitable for the general public", which is the requirement for flickr's "moderate" setting, is about as far away from these requirements as it gets. Even "restricted" pictures (in flickr terms: "content you probably wouldn't show to your mum, and definitely shouldn't be seen by kids") are at least not generally violating German laws (quite the contrary, I assume).

Based on this, it doesn't seem surprising to me that a lot of paying, German customers (like me) are quite upset about flickr's most unprofessional way to handle a possible legal issue: by deciding to block many, many entirely harmless pictures from their sight. Some of the users even threaten to leave flickr very soon if they don't solve the problem within the next fourtysomething hours:

Flickr censorship: Full Stop. And while I am not as strict about the "two days" as others, I am certainly not going to prolong my flickr "pro" account if this absolutely unacceptable content filtering stays in place.

I think we can at least expect Yahoo to pick up a phone and call a German lawyer who can explain the law to them. When I look at how much their official statements sound like "we will all go to jail!", they can't possibly have done that.

And worst of all, at the moment, Yahoo/flickr is massively damaging the reputation of the German legal system in the world by making people believe the core of the problem is Germany's fault ("Oh Germany. Here we tried so hard to get past the whole "Hitler" thing and then we were so proud of you for tearing down your big ol' wall, but now you come up with this and we have to be worried all over again." is one of the nicer quotes here).

I hope this text helped some of my international friends (and other interested readers) understand the issue some more and maybe it keeps them from getting a wrong impression about Germany and its laws.

(Note, again, I am not a lawyer so none of this is legal advice.)

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This is a map of US states renamed for countries that have similar GDPs:

US States and countries with similar GDPs (click for larger picture)

This is quite interesting to see, how California's as strong as France and Texas as Canada, for example. (However elsewhere people suggested that the raw GDP doesn't say much and per capita GDP would be a better comparison).

Some might wonder why Germany's not on the list: It's because its GDP is higher than any single US state.

(via Carl Størmer)

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I linked to this blog before, but now there are 15 common American prejudices about Germany on there that you might want to read.

It's funny how right the author is. And don't worry, you shouldn't feel bad if you get disillusioned about some totally bogus things -- because quite a handful of them are also dead on. And haven't you always wanted to know which ones are which?

By the way: Happy Easter holiday everybody. Don't feel too bad that we also have Monday off here :)

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Alright, my bags are packed and I am about to leave... tomorrow morning. Rumor has it it's snowy in Germany which feels kind of unreal considering how sunny the Bay Area is at the moment.

Lufthansa AirbusJust so I know what's expecting me in Germany (in case I forgot), Jean Pierre sent me a link to 20 things to keep in mind when visiting Germany, a quite funny list of things you might (well, you will) stumble across when you make it to my home country.

Things I am looking forward to? The food. The beer, obviously. Spring and summer. Some of my classes. Making more music again (my trumpet really does want to get played more often than recently!). German folk festivals. That the price on the shelves is actually what I have to pay. The metric system. Buildings with walls that actually deserve the name. Public transportation that works. The autobahn and people who know how to drive stick (no offense ;) ).

Things I am not looking forward to? The cold weather! Some of my classes! Gas prices. Closed stores on Sundays. Bad customer service, at times. Kind of a shortage on the "free wifi" front. Dubbed TV shows. 19 % sales tax.

As you see, I am all set -- except for that "proud to be an American" t-shirt morgamic wanted to get me, of course :) Cheers!

(The picture is CC-licensed by caribb on flickr, and it's purely symbolic: my plane(s) are not even going to be Airbuses)

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Friday is approaching fast. It'll be my last day as an intern with the Mozilla Corporation!

Mozilla MascotIt was a fun and exciting time, and I learned a lot. Six months long, I was working full-time on the Remora ( version 3) project, and during my journey through the complete software development lifecycle I got to tackle quite a few tricky issues that turned out to require new and unique solutions that I really enjoyed inventing and implementing (to use morgamic's recent words: "things you can't google for"), and I am proud that part of all this now carries my signature (if you are interested, at the moment, that's something like 60.000 lines of code svn blames on me).

Yet for now, I have to go back to school and finish up my degree: After all, I want to become a "Diplom-Informationswirt" (that is, a Master's Degree in Information Engineering and Management), and that'll take me pretty much another four semesters.

I want to thank my fellow AMO web devs (morgamic, clouserw, shaver, sancus, fligtar and Cameron) for their (ongoing) work on the project, their efforts to get me integrated into the project and Mozilla in no time, and their constant valuable input on my work. Thanks to schrep, Mitchell, John and cbeard who did their very best to help me get the most out of my internship. Thanks to all the other employees who sparked my inspiration and expanded my horizons time and again in interesting conversations, presentations, etc. Thanks to dolske and faaborg who I never regretted to share a "cube" with. And last but not least to the countless others all over the Mozilla community who I got in contact with (and there were a lot!).

That being said, I'm not out of your hair yet ;)! Even after my return to the college campus, I'll stay on the Mozilla webdev team, and I'll keep contributing to Remora and other projects to come; only I'll be on IRC at slightly different times of day...

See you in Europe!

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Funny, the German Heise Verlag sent us a voucher copy of the current issue of c't, because it contains a small article about Firefox 3 including the new Gecko 1.9 rendering engine (page 39).

c't voucher copy

As the person here who's most fluent in German, I inherited the magazine and will gladly read it soon. Thanks for passing it on to me, pkim! (And thanks to Heise for sending us a copy of their magazine).

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Happy new year to every one of my readers out there -- have a good one!

For those who were wondering if there changed anything more than a digit (oh, how often will I write 2006 instead of -07 in the next few weeks!), here's a little rundown on what changed law-wise, in Germany and the U.S., my two countries of residence :)

In Germany, for example, starting today, young parents can get government money to replace the income reduction the get due to taking care of their baby. Some newspapers today published stories about mothers who tried to make the birth as slow as possible last night, so the child was born after midnight -- had it been born at 23:59 on New Year's Eve, they wouldn't qualify for the new government benefits...

Another thing that makes it almost sad going back home this year is the increased sales tax: Since today, Germans have to pay 19% on almost all their sales, instead of 16% before.

Another interesting one is that from now on, buying cigarettes at German cigarette vending machines is only possible with debit cards that carry the age information of the holder, so underage smokers can't easily buy cigarettes anymore.

In the U.S., some things changed as well: Apparently here in California it is now legal for beer vendors to give free samples in restaurants and bars -- which before only wine and liquor vendors were allowed to do. (-- did the former restriction make any sense? At all? I don't think so. In Germany this would, by the way, have been unconstitutional, quite likely.)

Also in the U.S. landlords now have to disclose if the place you are about to rent was ever used as a meth lab before. Not for you to start a new one ;) -- but apparently the cleanup is pretty costly because of the chemicals. Apparently that's nothing you want to move into...

Do you know anything else that has changed (in these two countries or whatever one else...) and is noteworthy? Feel free to leave a comment!

(Sources: German, U.S.A.)

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Gartenzwerg, CC licensed on flickrSo, the World Cup has been over for a while, and even though you Americans probably haven't become fluent German speakers in the meantime, chances are you will go there on vacation some time.

I even hope you will.

But can you survive in the fatherland? The German Spiegel ("mirror") Magazine put together a German survival bible for you to practice your German social skills.

Have fun!

(via SF Stammtisch, thanks Jennifer)

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Filled with deep sadness I have to realize that I can't watch the games of the soccer world cup 2006 in Germany live on TV.

Why? They are on, aren't they?

Ah, well, yes. But they are on around noonish, and at work, we don't have cable, so I am stuck with taping them and watching them later. Which is not even remotely as spicey as watching a game live.

However, I can probably be sure that I won't meet anyone all day who cares about the world cup, so at least nobody will spoil it for me ;) Back home in Germany, it wouldn't take any more than like 10 minutes until somebody cheered outside, telling you who won.

Especially when it was the German team who won.

By the way, if you are into betting on sports events but don't really want to spend money, try Stoccer. It is a market research project from my home university back in Germany and it works like a stock market for national team "stocks". They try to predict who'll win the world cup from analyzing what users "buy" what teams. Sounds like fun, I think I will join it!

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Today a colleague asked me...

... by the way, do they celebrate Veterans Day in Germany?

hm. Ah, well... not quite.

But he figured it out himself ;)

German flag, half-staffAnyhow, the question is actually not as stupid as it sounds. The Federal Republic of Germany does not quite celebrate the "great work" of the German soldiers during World War II with a veterans day, for obvious reasons. However, we celebrate Volkstrauertag (similar to the idea behind "Memorial Day" in the U.S.), which is dedicated to those who died during wars in general, or suffered from them (especially the two World Wars). Regardless of their nationality, by the way. It is celebrated each year in November, two sundays before the beginning of advent.

The flags on official buildings are set half-staff, and the President holds a speech in the German parliament, the Bundestag. Afterwards, they play the national anthem and usually, the "good comrade" ("Ich hatt' einen Kameraden"), a famous German dirge. All over Germany, people get together to commemorate and put down memorial wreaths in front of war monuments. (I myself usually play the aforementioned songs with my orchestra in our home town).

So, now you know how it is, dear readers :). Of course, everything is different in Germany, but as you see, it is often still quite similar.

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