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June 3, 1998

PROSECUTORS APPEAL GERMAN COMPUSERVE PORN CONVICTION

By CBR Staff Writer

The absurdity of last week’s conviction and sentencing of the former head of CompuServe Corp’s German division on child pornography peddling charges was exemplified yesterday when the prosecutors lodged an appealed on Somm’s behalf, leaving only the judge believing that Somm should be punished. Appeals were widely expected as everyone from CompuServe to the US government expressed shock at the two year suspended sentence and fines of DM 100,000 ($56,500) that was handed down last week. The prosecutors, who last week announced that they believed Somm was not guilty has called for his acquittal against the conviction of complicity in 13 acts of distributing child pornography over the CompuServe network. The defense team pointed out that the technology to block such content didn’t exist at the time of the alleged crimes, in 1995 and 1996. A law has since been passed that says service providers should generally not be held responsible for material that users distribute, providing they take reasonable measures to block such material. Somm and his defense team are also expected to appeal. Steve Case, chairman and CEO of America Online Inc, which now owns CompuServe last week called the conviction outrageous and presidential advisor Ira Magaziner said he wouldn’t be surprised if the conviction is overturned.

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