Gerhard Lukawetz on Tue, 25 Mar 1997 13:43:49 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> * Austria goes offline *

Austria goes offline
Internet Service Providers on strike against recent police actions
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Major Austrian internet-providers decided to close down their services on
Tuesday, March 25 for two hours in protest to a police action against
provider "ViP" last week.

On this day during 16:00 and 18:00 o*clock servers on major parts of the
Austrian Internet - including the academic AcoNet and commercial Austrian
EuNet will be disconnected and content providers like the Community Network
Black*Box will close down their sites.

On Thursday, March 20 1997 the complete equipment, including
server-computers, harddisks etc. of internet service provider ViP were
confiscated by Austrian police officers. Even data and equipment of customers
were removed including all backups stored in office or privately.

Official reason for this police action is a request of the public
prosecutor's office in Munich (FRG) for assistance dating back more than one
year - March 10 1996: A former customer of ViP online service has been
posting to a pedophile newsgroup in February 1996.

An interesting coincidence is established by the fact that the Austrian
telecommunication law is even now unter parlamentary discussion. The judge
who autorised the police action is Member of Parliament and a leading
politician of the rightwing Austrian Freedom Party (ruled by Joerg Haider).

Further information, including a recent list of participating providers is
available on This site was established in a common
effort by the Austrian internet-community.

Attached: official press information
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Austria Offline

Vienna, Tuesday, 24 March 97. 

The Trigger for the action "A Country goes Offline"
On Thursday, 20 March 97 at 10:45, the Austrian Internet Service Provider ViP
was raided by seven Austrian law enforcement officers of the Vienna
Wirtschaftspolizei (Commerce Branch of the Police) and two surveyors. In the
course of the action, a number of computers that are essential to the
existence of the organization, were confiscated and most of the services of
ViP were disabled. The trigger for this action were charges against "unknown"
that were filed at the Munich Prosecution in March 96 (!) because a client of
the Internet Service Provider had released material in the internet that is
not conform with the paragraph 207a StGB (child pornography).

The alarmingly incompetent behaviour of the police, who acted only after more
than a year, even though electronic messages are typically deleted after a
few days, must make all Internet users in Austria concerned. Even though
there was no imminent danger, the sender was known to the office of public
prosecution at the time and ViP was not accused in the 
process, all computers with hard disks were confiscated - even those not
connected to any network.

What can the Internet Service Provider control?
Internet Service Provider look after the interconnection of computers that
are connected to the global internet and the trasport of data among these
computers. Since not all users are permanently connected to the internet,
their data are temporarily stored - often for a very short period of time -
on the computers of the providers. The amount of data that accumulates in
this fashion is enormous: the more than 27,000 available news groups alone
and the temporarily stored www-pages take up more than 40 gigabyte of storage
room at the largest providers. This is equlivalent to more than 20 million
standard letter pages per provider.

Hence, content control of such information quantities by the internet service
provider is not reasonable nor is it possible. The editorial responsibility
resides solely with the originator of the information. 

The internet has come to be an integral component in the daily routine of
many companies and private citizens.  Its availability directly affects the
competitiveness of a country.

Confiscation and Austrian Jurisdiction
The legal framework for Internet Service Provider is mostly undefined in

According to the interpretation of the Ministry of Justice, the provider's
direct liability for content that is not law-conform is based on the fact,
that by offering access to the net, the provider gives access to the net that
holds sources of danger. They are responsible for content control and legal
concordance. Hence, providers are directly liable and culpable if they omit
content control. 

This interpretation is contestable. Non-contestable is the legal situation in
case of confiscation.

Austrian law (P.142 Ch.1 StPO [criminal prosecution act]) regulates
confiscations, disallowing any unnecessary attraction of attention or any
unnecessary disturbance to those affected.  Reputation and privacy of the
affected are to be protected as much as possible.  Moreover, it is stated
that only items that can be of importance in the case can be confiscated.  A
confiscation can only be made if a previous questioning of the suspect
neither produced evidence nor eliminated the suspicion, or in the case of
imminent danger.

In the present case, no employee at ViP was questioned.  There was no
imminent danger since the contents in question had not been present on the
provider's computers, or in fact the whole Internet, for a year. The "due
care" advocated by the law was not afforded either, since police forced the
abrupt turning off of the equipment, which can lead to damage and data

A Country goes Offline
Because of this situation, the Austrian Internet Service Provider want to
alert the public, politicians, and officials that it is impossible to
maintain the internet services under the current jurisiction. To clearly
demonstrate the consequences of the present legal interpretation of internet
service operation, all Austrian internet services will be shut down on
Tuesday, 25 March 97, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. This means that Austria will not
be reachable via the internet worldwide. 

Propositions for Solutions and Cooperations
The Austrian Internet Service Provider condemn the distribution of illegal
content in the internet and will cooperate with the investigating officials -
as they have already in the past.

The ISPs believe that the individual originator is responsible for the
contents he is disseminating.  This is clearly stated in the terms of the
ISP's General Business Terms.  Blocking of contents must be mandated by a
sufficiently authorized legal institution, such as a judge.
Extending their existing level of cooperation with the authorities, the ISPs
offer to connect the responsible judicial authority to the Internet at no
cost and to educate their officials in the use and the nature of the
Internet.  Moreover, the ISPs offer their assistance in the formation of an
Experts' Commission.
The Association of Austrian Internet Providers, currently being established,
plans to create an Internet Coordination Office that would accept alerts of
illegal contents and would cooperate with the authorities in addition to
coordinating these issues among the providers.


ISPA - Austrian Internet Providers' Association (being established)
Dr. Michael Haberler
Tel +43-1-89933 -533
Dr. Peter Rastl
Tel +43-1-4065822 -227
Peter Wlcek 
ViP - ein Service der Firma Comdes Handels Gmbh 
Franz-Eduard-Matrasgasse 20
A-1220 Wien
Tel +43-1-25 73 317
Madeleine Fuchs
Vianet GmbH
Marianneng. 14
A-1090 Wien     
Tel: +43-1-40 40 20

Gerhard Lukawetz  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - NIC: GL4-RIPE
Phone: +43-1-406 02 58                       Bennogasse 8/6
Fax:   +43-1-406 02 59                 A-1080 Wien, Austria
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