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Publish Link, Pay 1200 Euros

The controversy over the upcoming Walser novel has now become a weblog controversy. As I alluded to before, the author of Der Schockwellenreiter on Friday was served with a cease-and-desist letter (in German, an Abmahnung) by Walser's publisher to remove a link to a pirate pdf copy of the novel, as well as a demand that he pay the legal costs of producing the letter, some €1200. The pdf had been sent by the publisher itself to journalists as advance review copies, and one of those copies found its way onto the net.

The case has been mentioned in literally dozens of German blogs, and also the mainstream Heise News Ticker "Suhrkamp mahnt Weblog wegen Walser-Roman ab". While the pdf itself was clearly illegal, is simply linking to it illegal as well? Wasn't the publisher acting irresponsibly in respect to its own copyright by sending out unsolicited copies to journalists?

Having to pay for just being threatened to be sued may seem to be strange concept. The Register printed an explanation of German Abmahnungen a while back. The procedure is meant to be used in commercial disputes, not against private individuals. Maybe with enough publicity, Suhrkamp will withdraw the demand for legal fees.

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