For quite a while now, I've been using a popular Wordpress plugin called "subscribe to comments" on fredericiana. It allows people to request email notifications when further comments come in on an article they commented on themselves. As it turns out though, the plugin has an unclear legal status in Germany [de]. The fact of the matter is, since somebody can put an arbitrary email address into the email field when commenting, a person who didn't want that may get "spammed" by my blog against their will.

That would result in a situation where the seeming "victim" of my "spam" could sue me for unsolicited advertisement, provided my blog is considered commercial--and depending on the judge, even a link to Amazon can make a website "commercial".

It is sad that German laws are so Internet-unfriendly, but I have to live with them. So I switched off email notifications on my blog until further notice.

I may switch to a double-opt-in solution (i.e., before notifications are sent, people have to click a link in an email to confirm they actually requested this service). While this is also not completely safe in legal terms (that means, no significant court has ruled about it yet), it is currently considered state of the art when it comes to sending out any sort of regular email to a group of people.

Since a lot of people are facing this problem, maybe the plugin's author or somebody else will extend the plugin to have double-opt-in functionality soon. I may even do it myself when I am bored the next time.

Until then, sorry for the inconvenience. You can always subscribe to the Comments RSS feed if you want to stay up to date with what's happening here.

(via JP)

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"The smoking bans in the German states of Baden-W├╝rttemberg and Berlin violate the constitution. However, the laws stay valid until the end of 2009, by when the parliaments have to pass new laws."

Seen on tagesschau.de (German). Crazy. Baden-W├╝rttemberg happens to be the state I live in.

It seems, the laws violate the rights of owners of very small bars. Why? Because owners of bigger bars are allowed to designate special areas to smokers; in smaller bars, that's impossible, leading to a significant disadvantage for these bars. As people won't have a way to smoke there, they'll move on to bigger bars instead, violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of profession.

Apparently, while only the anti-smoking laws of two states were in question here, this is a big signal for the other 14 states as well, as most of them have almost identical laws in place.

We'll see how the state governments react to that. If I had to guess, I'd say they'll allow bar owners under a specific square meter size of the establishment to choose whether or not they want to be a smoking or non-smoking venues.

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Sometimes the news just leave me scratching my head:

Apparently, in 2003, Pennsylvania abolished the "helmet law" forcing motorcycle riders in the state to wear a helmet.

As a result, people are less inclined to wear helmets (first surprise), according to a recent study head injuries needing hospital care due to motorcycle accidents went up 87% compared to before the law fell (second surprise), leading to a rise in the resulting medical care costs for these injuries of 132%.

So, Pennsylvania gets rid of their helmet law, and now they act surprised that people leaving their bikes the direct way are more likely to suffer severe injuries? What the hell?

(Helmet picture CC by-nc-sa licensed by midnightglory on flickr)

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