Murderer has ‘right to be forgotten’, Germany’s highest court rules

A man convicted of murder 37 years ago has the right to be forgotten and have his name removed from online search results, Germany's highest court ruled on Wednesday.

Murderer has 'right to be forgotten', Germany's highest court rules
Photo: DPA

The constitutional court in Karlsruhe found in favour of a man who was given a life sentence for killing two people on a yacht in 1982.

The man, who was released from prison in 2002, is now fighting to distance his family name from reports about the case.

The decision could mean publications are forced to restrict search engine access to their online archives in such cases.

His full name still appears in online searches as part of an archived article in German weekly Der Spiegel. His case was initially rejected by a federal court in 2012 on the basis that his right to privacy did not outweigh public interest and press freedom.

But Germany's highest court has now thrown out that initial ruling, meaning his case will now return to the federal courts.

Yet the court also insisted that individuals could not unilaterally claim a right to be forgotten and that its decision had been influenced by the amount of time that had passed since the crime.

READ ALSO: 60,000 Germans want Google to forget them

Longstanding legal dispute

The “right to be forgotten” has been the subject of a longstanding legal dispute involving Google and the EU.

In 2014, a European Court of Justice ruling forced search engines to comply with requests to remove results.

Google hit back last September when the same court ruled that the right to be forgotten only applied to search results in Europe.

In a separate case, the German constitutional court ruled against a woman campaigning to have the transcript of a TV programme from 2010 removed from searches of her name.

In the TV show, the woman had been accused of treating employees unfairly.

The court described her complaint as “unfounded”.

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Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs’ door policies in court

Bouncers at German nightclubs are legendary for their reluctance to let too many people through the door. A Munich man is now taking one club to court for turning him away based on his age.

Why an ‘old’ man is taking on German nightclubs' door policies in court
Inside a night club in Berlin. Photo: DPA

In a case that could have an impact on clubs up and down the country, 47-year-old Nils Kratzer is challenging a nightclub’s door policy in the Federal Court in Karlsruhe on Thursday, arguing that a bouncer’s decision to turn him away at the door was discriminatory.

The incident occurred when Kratzer tried to get into an open air club night on the Praterinsel, a small island on the river Isar in Munich in 2017.

“I’ve never had anyone tell me to my face that I’m too old for a festival,” Kratzer said before the hearing. “On the contrary, I’ve often gone to festivals nationwide with my friends in the past and all ages have been represented.”

READ ALSO: ‘Alone Together’: How I had an unexpected night out at a German online bar

The club makes no bones about the fact that it told its bouncers to discriminate at the door, but argues that this was based on “optics” and not on age. It argues that, given that there was only space for 1,500 guests, it needed to discriminate on some grounds.

If Kratzer were to win the case, which he is basing on anti-discrimination laws introduced in 2006, it would force all German night clubs to review their door policies, as a ruling by a federal court sets a legal precedent.

But Kratzer has already failed to convince a Munich city court and a Bavarian state court of his case. At the Munich city court, he called his younger girlfriend to testify in order to establish his youthfulness.

Nils Kratzer. Photo: DPA

He also complained that Munich clubs have a culture of discrimination at their doors, saying one had turned him away for being a man, while he had also witnessed people being turned away based on their skin colour.

“Not all unequal treatment is discrimination,” argues Sandra Warden from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. “Event organisers are free to decide whom they let in. The host’s right to decide is protected in our country.”

Warden said that clubs often discriminate based on age, such as at Ü-30 parties, ones where only people over the age of 30 are allowed to enter.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music