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INDICTED COMPUSERVE GERMANY BOSS QUITS TO START OWN BUSINESS

The beleaguered head of CompuServe Inc’s German operations has left to start his own company. Felix Somm was indicted in March for distributing pornography over internet newsgroups. But Somm wasn’t the one doing the illegal distribution; he was merely the head of the company that was hosting the newsgroups. Due to a quirk of German law, companies cannot be prosecuted, leaving Somm to carry the can and CompuServe GmbH yesterday insisted that the charges were not the reason for Somm’s resignation. It said it would continue to support Somm in his defense against the allegations, though it’s not clear whether or not that includes paying his legal fees. The charges, stemming from an investigation begun on 1995, alleged that CompuServe in Germany could have prevented the offensive and illegal images of child pornography being distributed over the German network. CompuServe said that was impossible, because the network is controlled by the US parent company. Last November, CompuServe threatened to move its office out of Germany if the laws were enforced. The company didn’t say what kind of business Somm was leaving to set up.

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