Flickr: UnavailableWhen flickr recently stopped showing "moderate" (possibly offensive) and "restricted" (not for children, or your mom) pictures in Germany, people started complaining about arbitrary censorship. Yahoo!/flickr responded, this was due to strong age verification laws in Germany.

Now Friedemann Schindler, head of (which is the German government's initiative for youth protection on the Internet), responded to yahoo's claims, arguing that yahoo's "solution" "exceeds the legal requirements", because as a hosting provider, they are only required to remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. (Which is exactly what I said about the situation in an earlier post).

A while ago, flickr responded to the censorship claims by allowing Germans to remove the "moderate" restriction in the preferences, while "restricted" stays filtered for German accounts. While this is a step into the right direction (at least we can see average vacation photos again!), at times flickr still looks like this (yes, this is a real screenshot): Grayed out pictures on flickr

If flickr wants to be (or become) "family friendly", I appreciate them banning hard pornography pictures from their platform (this is --really-- not what flickr is for). But this is a change that has to happen in the upload policies (and be enforced accordingly) and not by implementing a highly flawed filtering mechanism that relies on the uploaders' feelings about their own pictures.

After all, while yahoo keeps hiding many entirely harmless pictures from all Germans' sights, other --legally much more critial-- pictures, for example of WW2-nuts reenacting Third Reich scenes, stay unfiltered and readily available for the general public.

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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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If Apple was Target, Microsoft would be Wal-Mart.

Joel on Software about Font Rendering on Windows vs. OS X. Interesting how their different algorithms sacrifice font character for crispness and vice versa.

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So yeah, another day, another blog meme, and this one seriously is on the cheesy side but fair enough: I am C++. ;)

You are C++. You are very popular and open to suggestions.  Many have tried to be like you, but haven't been successful
Which Programming Language are You?

I am not sure if that's a good or a bad thing -- especially considering I haven't coded in C++ in, well, forever. The closest I've got in the last years was Java cause most programming assignments in my university are in Java. And whenever I can choose freely, let's just put it like that: C++ is usually not on top of my list.

Now, which one are you?

(via binblog and JP (who is Prolog: talk about weird programming languages!))

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Sun’s engagement in OpenOffice.orgI'm delighted to hear that Sun announced today joining the Mac OSX port of

Sun, who founded the OpenOffice project by open-sourcing the StarOffice program code shortly after they acquired its former vendor StarDivision, are going this way due to the increasing use of Macs. They write:

Why is Sun joining the Mac porting project? If you look around at conferences and airport lounges, you will notice that more and more people are using Apple notebooks these days. Apple has a significant market share in the desktop space. We are supporting this port because of the interest and activity of the community wanting this port.

I am very glad to see this happen as it makes a native "aqua" port of OpenOffice much more likely to happen in this century than it was ever before.

And since most people at Mozilla are using Macs these days, this seems to be something to look forward to for a whole bunch of people.

(via TUAW)

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Foxkeh, the Mozilla Japan MascotMozilla Japan's Mascot, a little "firefox" named Foxkeh, became popular across the Japanese speaking Internet quite quickly and wherever he goes, people seem to like the cute little fellow.

I personally always liked his monthly wallpapers (featuring foxkeh and the current calendar), though admittedly I wasn't quite able to read Foxkeh's Japanese blog.

As of today though, Foxkeh has an English blog as well,, and you should check it out.

After all, you are as curious to learn new things about the web and Firefox as Foxkeh is, aren't you?

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Thunderbird 2 ArtworkThe newly released Thunderbird 2 was promptly BoingBoinged: Cory Doctorow calls Thunderbird "free, kick-ass email" and shows that Thunderbird is the best mailer out there, for the average and not-so-average mail user:

I send several hundred emails a day and receive at least a thousand non-spams every day. I need an industrial-strength mailer, and I get it from Thunderbird. I love it.

Thanks to Cory for the nice review and thumbs up to the Thunderbird team for their latest and greatest release :)

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Mozilla MascotI just stumbled across this list of company name etymologies on Wikipedia and noticed that Mozilla is also on there. It reads:

from the name of the web browser that preceded Netscape Navigator. When Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Netscape, created a browser to replace the Mosaic browser, it was internally named Mozilla (Mosaic-Killer, Godzilla) by Jamie Zawinski.

Mozilla, the Mosaic-Killer. Funny. (Even though I can't quite say much about the historical accuracy, of course).

(via kottke)

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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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