This week, let us have another look at courts which do not understand the nature (sorry to Lessig again, yes nature, not artificiality) of the Internet. For that, let me briefly explain the German TV and radio broadcasting system.
In Germany there are a number of radio and TV programs which is regulated by public-law and offered by the states. These programs are financed by dues collected by a public administration agency called GEZ. When you move to another place and register at the local administration, this administration gives your new details to the GEZ. They send you nice letters indicating that you have to pay. A bit if you only have Internet, more if you have a radio and quiet some money of you have a television. Keep the point with the Internet in mind!
Why is system good? These programs offer educational and cultural broadcasts. They were supposed to be without any advertisement but in the last couple of years they included some basic advertisement in their programs. Furthermore, they also show football and other things for leisure but that is another discussion.
Two years ago, the GEZ said that anyone who has an Internet-ready device (e.g. mobile phone with WAP access). People went to the court and last week the court ruled in last instance, that you have to pay if you have a mobile phone with which you COULD access one of the DOZEN webpages of these TV and radio programs.
You also have to know that the GEZ is a very nasty agency. They have a lot of employees who travel around Germany, pretend to be someone else, try to get in your flat and collect evidence that you have a TV you are not paying your dues for.
Why does our court not understand the (virtual) reality?
1. Only because I have a ten year old mobile phone which can access one of these websites via WAP (which is very slow, costs a lot of money and no one uses it anymore, anyway) should pay dues.
2. The Internet is composed of a gzillion websites. Only because I could retrieve my information from one of these few websites I have to pay? Even if I don’t?
Basically, I am now paying for content of the Internet (even if I do not watch it). I am willing to pay for content I WANT to watch. The court does not want to understand neither the nature nor the history of the Internet.
Next time, I buy a car but have no time nor money to register it. Following the above mentioned logic, I would have to pay anyway, because I COULD drive with THAT car on ONE of the streets in WHOLE Germany.
There is no logic backing that up.