Compuserve manager Felix Somm was convicted last year by an Bavarian court a two-year suspended sentence and a 100,000 mark (euro 51,000) fine for failing to prevent illicit content from being distributed over the Internet.

This decision was now overturned by a German court.

If you do not remember, Somm was convicted for letting porn pics be spread over the Compuserve forums. The Bavarian court decided Somm is responsible for failing to prevent such smut from being distributed.

The verdict was given international much response, as it was interpreted that anyone could be held responsible who does not control his forums of what kind ever in Germany.

Of course that did not help Internet business in Europe, or especially Germany, as many foreign companies investing feared then that they could be held liable for reasons that are virtually not possible to control, by hard legislature in that country.

After that verdict, a lot of content filtering measures took place, making it harder to call the net a free place to speak, as many forums like abuse.sex were also banned, just for the word sex. Though this forum was for helping victims of rape and other abuse.

Now, the presiding judge Laszlo Ember lamented the lack of an effective legal and technical means to eliminate child pornography and other illegal content from the web though, but said he expects the issue to continue to plague the industry in years to come.

Felix Somm's lawyers argued succesfully now that an Internet service provider cannot be held responsible for simply supplying access to a medium over which third parties distributed objectionable content.

It is interesting, that even the prosecution had changed their minds and moved for acquittal during the initial trial, saying it had been persuaded by the defence position. But the Bavarian judge, who in German law and Internet circles was said to have not much an idea about computers in particular and the Internet as such, said he wanted the verdict to deter other internet-access providers from doing the same.

Now does this new verdict change much for the general law situation in Germany or even Europe? Unlikely, or not sure, but at least it proves that common sense might be now be found in more court rooms.

http://www.somm-case.de (in German)