On Prowl with PC

Imagine kids singing “Happy Birthday!“ to their dad but he cannot take them into his arms and hug them. He is behind bars. All he did was to download a couple of songs from a file-sharing platform. This warning against pirate copying of music from the media industry is just as clear and exaggerated – very exaggerated. It can be such a relief to extensively describe one’s jerk of a boss by “punching this into the keyboard” and maybe even enter the description with his full name in a public chat forum. This, however, can be punished. Many people still believe the internet to be a law free zone. Such belief is by all means outdated! Let us take a closer look at a few of the legalities.


1.)  Virtual Fingerprints

Few people really have yet understood that surfing in the internet is not anonymous or secret venturing. “WWW” is not only an acronym for “world wide web” but also implicates “witnessed world wide”. Computers communicate with their IP-address – comparable to a phone number. Technicians consider this as a virtual fingerprint simultaneously delivering the surfer’s IP-address.

If you get caught for the first time, you will only be subject to a  punishment in money. If, however, the state attorney can prove many cases, you might end up in jail. Punishment will mean you will have a penal record – unlike with speeding tickets. Consider this attitude for punishing as a rule of thumb only for file sharing. There is no public interest in punishing somebody who exchanges only 100 files. This means that only upon application of the music industry will there be a penal case opened. Nevertheless, the greatest punishment will be the costs for civil law admonishment and the attorneys’ fees. This usually starts with a four digit sum.

2.) Expensive Revenge

So, you are planning to show a company who is stronger. To do this, you want to publish a website calling up to block that company? This might be easy to install and promote but just as easy for the company to stop you and have you punished. The Amtsgericht (County Court) Frankfurt sentenced an internet user who called up to block Lufthansa’s web presentation as a so-called “online demo” to pay € 900 as punishment. That punishment was minuscule compared to the damages of Lufthansa of  € 42,370.

3.) Porn in the Hand of Kids

Nowadays, you do not need to go to distant websites to find porn or illegal material. Schoolyards are a popular trading place. Many teachers have problems to deal with videos containing porn or violence – especially since they are not only on CDs but recently also on cell phones.

Whoever gives minors access to porn is subject to punishment from six months up to ten years of imprisonment – §176 StGB). The distribution of videos glorifying violence or propaganda of lunatic fringes is also subject to punishment – §131 StGB by imprisonment up to a year or punishment in money.

Courts will be everything but amused if it comes to professional exchanging of such illegal material. If kids are caught exchanging violent videos they will only be subject to punishment if they are 14 or older – §19 StGB.

4.)  Improved Reports

In times of mass unemployment, it is very tempting to improve one’s records. Especially since more and more employers are requesting PDF-files instead of paper files. It is nowadays easy to change an “average” into “excellent”. Creative heads will develop a letter of reference of an existing company and collect the necessary data for the letterhead from the internet. Even more inventive will be a reference letter from a fantasy company. If the applicant has been hired and this “improvement” leaks out, he or she will surely lose his or her job without notice because the employer was betrayed. Disregarding the loss of one’s job, lawyers call such “creativity” forgery. §§267, 269 StGB says that whoever falsifies a true document or creates a false document will receive punishment in money or with imprisonment up to five years. This will automatically lead to an entry in your penal records.

5.) False eMail Addresses

Just recently, a couple was sentenced to pay € 900 and € 250 as punishment. They forged a death certificate enabling them to not pay monthly fees for a studio. Forgery will also be assumed if you use a fake eMail address. Especially using an official title you are not allowed to bear will bring the most worries. So, if you, John Doe, send an eMail as This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., that will be not considered as a joke – in particular if you call Mr. Münteferig names.

6.) Mean Words

A bad day in the office? A sharp remark in a chat forum? A rebuke about your boss or business partner distributed within the company’s intranet? Keep in mind that issuing insults can be subject to punishment.

In the case you insult somebody in a hot discussion and immediately or shortly afterwards excuse yourself, you will be out of trouble. If insults remain public in internet forums, this can quickly become a case for the district attorney. However, district attorneys will only become active in exclusively private feuds upon application of the hurt party. This means you, as the insulted person, will have to pay the case.

An insult will be easily assumed. A court sentenced the person who ordered an ad in a newspaper showing a lady’s cell phone number supposedly offering the services of a prostitute to € 400. This number was real but only to the guy’s ex lover. He wanted to take revenge. Almost as easily traceable would have been the IP-address of this man.

Published on the old CMS: 2007/2/16
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 87 reads

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