Germany threatens to jail Carl Malamud for making the law available for free


So ignorance is no excuse when breaking the law yet knowing what the law is and spreading it is potentially criminal?


While the fact that these laws are stuck behind a paywall strikes me as being … uh… completely bat-shit insane, it seems just as nutty to be surprised that releasing that info to the public isn’t going to piss someone off.

This is a byproduct of allowing corporations to write the laws. They want to own the stuff they produce.

In a perfect world, the government would employ people to research and write these regulations, or at least buy the rights to publish it freely from the code-writing companies.


If your everyday activities just happen to comply consistently with what the law is, then can your conduct be used as evidence that you’ve come into possession of knowledge of what the law is?


uh. hang on: Threaten to jail for making the DIN norms public?


This is a simple civil lawsuit regarding breach of copyrights, brought on by the DIN Deusches Institut für Normung e.V., which is basically a club - but a club charged with the official mandate of maintaining the norm catalogues.

The threat for jail is for the case that Carl Malamud doesn’t show up for the important bits of the lawsuit or fails to comply with the lawsuit-related court orders.

Also note that the court here in Hamburg has a reputation for being overly heavy-handed and often quite out of line with the regular interpretation of the law when it comes to copyright and free speech lawsuits.


just went through the pdfs - actually there is absolutely no mention of a jail time threat at all in there. I know that legalese is hard to read in a foreign language, and that nice sensationalist headlines make good clickrates, but please try to stick to the basic facts.


It’s a civil law suit and the lawyers of the plaintiff ask for “Ordnungshaft” if the money they demand/get awarded is not paid (see the complaint.pdf in the last link of the article).

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His earlier kickstarter didn’t gain enough funding, so I’m wondering how else can I support his cause?

Right. I didn’t see that, thanks.

Interestingly enough, the plaintiff also states that the DIN norms explicitly aren’t laws, so they wouldn’t need to be public free of charge.


At first, the DIN is a private organization, in terms of a trade organization. It is only partly founded by the government. It is the same like the ANSI, NIST, and SAE in the US (they are called National Bodies), or like ISO, IEC, ETSI, CEN, and CENELEC on international and European level. I am on of the experts who in that field for electronics and safety in electronics. I am in several working groups within almost all of these organizations. Even I as an expert who is working on those documents, I have to sign a away almost exclusive to give away all the copyright to those organizations. That said, even I have to buy and pay for those standards, even as I have access to preliminary versions that I had to work on, to review, and to comment on.

The standards published by all these organizations are standards and NOT laws. If you have very good reasons you don’t have to follow those standards. But then of course, you have to have good reasons.

The EC (European Commission) mandates in certain areas, that a so-called harmonization has to be done. That is e.g. in the area of wireless communication a regulation in the 2.4GHz frequency range. As all telecommunication related topics are standardized by ETSI, the ETSI gets a mandate to work on this topic. Then companies like Cisco and IBM work on this topic and publish a standard, which then becomes an EN and then is approved by the National Bodies, namely DKE in Germany, to become a DIN EN. Then EC publishes in its directory that all wireless communication devices within Europe has to follow this so-called harmonized standard. If your device does not follow the requirements of that standard and something happens, then you become liable and it is your task to prove that you weren’t the cause, which becomes hard if didn’t followed the standard.
The very same procedure is true for safety in machinery, another topic I am heavily involved in.

That means, the government has laws, that e.g. in safety in machinery, that you are liable for your machinery you put in production. Then the government has a list of standards that is published, because experts like me said: if you follow those standards you will be in line with the law and you have done the best known to the current state in technology to prevent accidents.
That said, you don’t have to follow those standards if you have reasons to do so. But it makes your life easier if you follow those standards.

TL/DR: Those standards are NOT laws. Those standards are protected by copyright. Because selling these standards mainly finance the infrastructure to develop these standards. This is not paid for by the general public like the government itself.


"The DKE business organization finances about 95 % of its budget from the proceeds of standards prepared by the DKE and sold by the VDE VERLAG and Beuth Verlag.

The remainder is contributed by the union of sponsors, which has about 400 member companies, five associations of the electrical industry and nine associations closely connected to electrotechnical standardization."

That means, if you would like to abandon copyright in standardization, then the general public has to pay with their tax money for that.


Newsflash: You can read these standards by going to a physical library! Yes, they still exist in the 21st century, and they can order you copies of copyrighted books for pocket change. If Carl Malamud actually was interested in making products covered by this standard, he’d be able to go his local library, request a copy, and it would either be forwarded from a central copyright library, or a new copy would be bought for his branch.

The long term strategy has to be to get these standards published as open access. But breaking the copyright law as it exists today is the Aaron Schwarz approach, which doesn’t have a good precedent. It’d be much more effective to lobby politicians to make these standards open access. - For instance lobbying for a bill that states that any publication incorporated by reference into statute is automatically exempted from copyright control. Carl Malamud is risking a large fine and possibly jail if he doesn’t follow the courts orders, for what? So that the rest of us can have the information on how to manufacture and sell compliant baby pacifiers, apparently. Has he done any market research - how much demand for this information is there? Is it worth risking a large fine and jail time? Will anyone actually thank this guy? Will BoingBoing send a contingent to interview him in jail? Wouldn’t a trip to a library be more effective all round?..

This is a byproduct of believing that corporations and governments are fundamentally different types of entities.

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And civil rights demonstrators were arrested and badly injured being sprayed with high pressure fire hoses and attacked by dogs. I suppose you’d say their actions were a ‘bad precedent,’ as well?


It’s not so easy. In certain cases law demands compliance to standards. You could argue that when a law refers to a third party source this source is part of the law and should be public too.


It’s a lawsuit by a semi-public company in a civil court. That alone should be enough to make one realise that this headline is a huge pile of crap.

Exactly the type of misleading headline and even worse article that made me stop reading boingboing a long time ago. Considering Doctorow travels the world as an apparent insider on all things related to digital property rights he doesn’t seem to care very much about the details of the stuff he is reporting.


Yes you could argue that, and I even would agree that it makes a lot of sense arguing that way. That does not make it a legal fact. Arguing what could be is fun, but get your facts straight, and when you get caught not having them straight, don’t make a fool of yourself by denying them.

An industrial standard is not a law, yes it is so easy.

There’s a difference between someone being pissed off and someone instigating a court case over it :slight_smile:


Sorry, but I can’t see this as anything but a pissing contest between a libertarian and an authoritarian. Nobody’s life is saved, or even enhanced, by reading these standards. In fact, nobody notices them except those with a professional need. How many of you have ever snuggled up with a nice copy of the ANSI?

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