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Germany court: Internet is an 'essential' part of life

A German court ruled on Thursday that people have a right to claim money damages from service providers for disrupted Internet access. The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe [official website] declared [Reuters report] the Internet an "essential" part of life and, in accordance with German law which requires compensation for the loss of use of essential material items, victims have a right to claim damages for such infractions. Serving as a potentially landmark decision for advocates of wireless broadband expansion, the German court illustrated the importance of Internet use in today's society, comparing its loss to the loss of a car.

This decision follows a more recent trend in Germany of judicial deference to consumer protection and public need. A pair of 2008 decisions by Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website] prevented a series of laws from going into effect that would have allowed intelligence agents and government officials to search personal computers, networks and Internet communications as well as telephone data [JURIST reports] for national security purposes. The same court reaffirmed its defense of individual liberties in 2010 when it overturned a law [JURIST report] requiring telecommunications providers to store information on telephone calls, e-mails and Internet use for six months in the event of possible terrorism investigations, citing privacy issues as the main cause for concern.

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