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Posted on 2014-05-24 by IceBear

totally unconstitutional symbolRecently MachineGames' new video game Wolfenstein: The New Order was released. In case you are not familiar with the popular Wolfenstein series, it began way back in 1981 with Castle Wolfenstein and essentially is a video game series revolving around Nazis and organisations which were active in Nazi Germany. You do not play as a Nazi, instead you play against them. So effectively you are killing Nazis within the game.

The more popular part of the series Wolfenstein 3D released in 1992 was "confiscated" in Germany in 1994 because of its use of the Swastika which in this context is considered a symbol of an unconstitutional organisation. The use of such symbols is regulated by German law in § 86a StGB and can lead to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years. When a video game is "confiscated" in Germany it effectively means the following (for a more thorough analysis see this (German)):

  • You are not allowed to sell the video game within Germany
  • You are allowed to buy the video game within Germany (however the seller is going against the law here)
  • You are allowed to own the game
  • You are allowed to import the video game from another country

So, assuming you already owned the game before the "confiscation", it is perfectly legal to keep it and play it. It is also perfectly legal to import the video game from another country which most people don't seem to know about. To me this doesn't really seem like a "confiscation" which is the German term used by law: "Beschlagnahmung", hence I put it in quotes. Instead I'd call it a ban, effectively censorship even.

Now you might be wondering: what about movies or television series involving the use of such symbols? Well, according to German law you may be allowed to make use of such symbols in certain cases like for example for "art" which is regulated in § 86 StGB. The next question is: those are considered art, but video games are not? Who says?

Answering this question would be an article on its own and effectively there is no decisive answer. It's a matter of court decisions in the past, a matter of a people that doesn't even want to touch certain topics due to a taboo and an industry that is rather scared and goes the "easy" way of censoring their video games for the German video game market instead of fighting against censorship.

Anyway, the discussion on why this ban exists is irrelevant to the point I actually want to make. As you have learned now, video games might get banned in Germany due to usage of symbols used by an unconstitutional organisation and regardless of that it is still perfectly legal to import such games from other countries. And here comes the catch.

Back in the days without digital rights management (DRM) it was as easy as importing a video game from another country, installing it and playing it. On the PC anyway, video game consoles already had a kind of a region lock through NTSC and PAL standards. But that's again another topic.

Let's go back to the recently released game Wolfenstein: The New Order which uses Steamworks as their DRM. To play the game you will have to activate it online with Valve Corporation's Steam software. And here's what Bethesda Softworks, the publisher of Wolfenstein: The New Order decided to do: they released a censored German version without the use of any unconstitutional organisation symbols and to top it off disallow the activation of the uncensored version from a German IP address.

Within Germany I'm only allowed to activate and play the censored version even though by law it is perfectly legal for me to import the uncensored version from another country. Since the Steam Subscriber Agreement disallows use of any proxy servers or virtual private network (VPN) to obfuscate my location, I have no legal and allowed means to play a perfectly legal and legit copy of an imported video game.

"You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, we may terminate your access to your Account." - Steam Subscriber Agreement

Thank you for fucking over the honest customer. Obviously you don't want people's money, you made that abundantly clear.

Since Wolfenstein: The New Order is a single player only game it is happily shared by thousands of German peers... and you shouldn't even really be mad at them... Bethesda Softworks caused this themselves.

Posted on 2012-03-17 by IceBear

11:00 AM, a nice Saturday morning, nothing planned for the day, got plenty of time to surf the net and find out about missed stuff during the stressful week. Time to relax.
Oh hey, a new game has been released. "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning". Let's give it a try and download the demo on Origin:

"Unfortunately due to youth protection laws in Germany it isn't allowed to download this game during 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM." ("Leider darf dieses Spiel aufgrund des Jugendschutzgesetzes in Deutschland nicht zwischen 6:00 Uhr und 23:00 Uhr heruntergeladen werden.") - Origin Store

Seriously? I mean... seriously? I can't download it between those times? Am I allowed to play it at least once I downloaded it outside those times? So if a kid downloads the game during the night it's also able to play during the day then? What the fuck?
Hey, have you ever heard of SKIDROW? OK, let's not go there, yet.

It's not Electronic Arts' fault right? It's a German law, so it's the German government's fault. After reviewing the German law for the protection of the youth I didn't find anything that would clearly and definitely explain this ban of download during daytimes, though.

The USK rated "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning" 18+, so nobody under the age of 18 is allowed to buy the game in Germany. Aka only adults are allowed to buy it. Or in this case, download the demo? That's not even buying, what are we talking about here then? Distribution in general? Actually it's a digital distribution, so let's see.

The way I see it we have the following laws that are relevant:

Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3) basically says that every medium (film or game) that is rated for adults only is not allowed to be made available or sold to anybody under the age of 18:

"[...] dürfen einem Kind oder einer jugendlichen Person nicht angeboten, überlassen oder sonst zugänglich gemacht werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3)

Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4) says something about limitations of "vending machines" which make films or games available, like location and access control. It also states that adult content (18+) is not allowed to be made available through "vending machines" at all in public spaces accessible by kids and teenagers:

"[...] nur aufgestellt werden, wenn ausschließlich nach § 14 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 bis 4 gekennzeichnete Bildträger angeboten werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4)

Looking at this and assuming that Origin is a "vending machine" they wouldn't be allowed to make such games available at all regardless of the time since the Internet is public. Assuming it isn't considered a "vending machine", they aren't allowed to make it available for anybody under the age of 18 which would therefore conclude that they'd need some kind of age verification before making such games available.

Are you honestly saying that everybody under the age of 18 is always asleep during 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM? This is an age verification? Seriously? But hey, others do it exactly the same way:

"This show is unsuitable for teenagers under the age of 12. This clip is therefore only available between 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM." ("Diese Sendung ist für Jugendliche unter 12 Jahren nicht geeignet. Der Clip ist deshalb nur von 20 bis 6 Uhr verfügbar.") - ARD Mediathek

Where is this coming from? Am I missing something? Not to mention that "teenagers" under the age of 14 are not even considered "teenagers" by German law but are considered kids. What are "teenagers" under the age of 12 then? They are kids.
And not to mention that GeoIP, the whole concept and idea to find out from which country a certain website visitor is coming from is totally unreliable. There have been reports of people getting those messages even though they don't live in Germany or connect from within Germany. These laws do not apply to them.

Fuck GeoIP, fuck "national Internet" and get your head out of your asses. This is fucking ridiculous. Unless of course you don't want to make money?

Coming back to my previous question: have you ever heard of SKIDROW?

Update: Kreuvf found out where those ridiculous time periods are coming from. They are actually defined in a treaty, the State Treaty on Youth Protection in the Media ("Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag") which is also regulating digital distribution like the Internet. The JuschG apparently is only regulating physical media.

Posted on 2012-01-11 by IceBear

This article is a follow up to Germany's E-Pestbeef. I suggest reading that in case you haven't already.

I found a flyer for Deutsche Post AG's E-Postbrief in my mailbox the other day. I've found some of those there before but always tossed them immediately (with the rest of the advertisement crap I don't need). This time I actually went through it however. The idea was to have a laugh. Instead I ended up raging.

It is just ridiculous what claims they make in there. What upsets me the most is how they try to deceive normal people who have no clue about the matter into registering and using their "secure" system. I will comment on some quotes taken from the flyer. The original quotes are in German and I will include them in brackets after the translated quote. Let's take a look:

"Conventional emails are too insecure - you never know who else might be reading. Michael's solution: the E-Postbrief." ("Einfache E-Mails sind zu unsicher - da weiß man nie, wer alles mitliest. Michaels Lösung: der E-Postbrief.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 8

So conventional emails are not as secure as the E-Postbrief. I beg to differ. First of all it depends on how you define "conventional email".

Let's say "conventional email" means unencrypted emails then I'd say conventional emails and E-Postbrief are pretty much on the same level. Yes, E-Postbrief uses encryption. But what encryption? We don't know. Who encrypted it? Not you.
Update: Actually this wasn't quite correct to prove my point. It's more like: Who decrypts it? Not you, they decrypt it for you on their system.
Meaning: a third party being not you nor the recipient knows how to decrypt the message. Insecure crap.

Let's say "conventional email" means an encrypted email with GPG/PGP. You created your key, the recipient created their key, there is no third party involved. The message has been encrypted with well known and proven security standards.

Which would you choose now? Of course they're not telling you that, though. This is exactly what makes me rage: they're telling people their system is secure and some who don't really know a lot about the matter will believe and trust them. However in reality their system is NOT secure at all. It's a freaking lie.

"Your documents are stored permanently and securely like in a giant safe at www.epost.de." ("Ihre Unterlagen sind bei www.epost.de wie in einem riesigen Safe dauerhaft und sicher abgelegt.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 5

Yes, permanently alright. Since once you delete something it actually is not deleted. Securely, huh? Let's see...

"The high quality and security standard of the E-Postbrief platform is even approved and certified by TÜV." ("Der hohe Qualitäts- und Sicherheitsstandard der E-Postbrief-Plattform ist sogar vom TÜV bestätigt und zertifiziert.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 5

This one actually makes me laugh and die a bit inside. Security certified by TÜV. Want to know software that has also been certified by TÜV?
Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9 (OMFG, are those spaces in the URL?)
What a guarantee for security and quality! Trollolololol.

DON'T USE THIS SERVICE. I can't say it often enough. It is NOT secure, it is NOT private, it's all a big freaking lie.

Also have a look at this nice list of companies who apparently seem to be as incompetent as Deutsche Post AG (since they are all already using and supporting E-Postbrief).

At least they're maintaining a handy blacklist. Vote with your wallet.

Note: Due to copyright I'm not publishing the whole flyer on here. I have a copy however, in case you want to have a look at it, simply contact me.

Posted on 2010-11-25 by IceBear

Personally, I'm a fan of sarcasm, I just can't get enough of it. Some people are really good at it, makes me laugh sometimes, sometimes it just makes me sad however.
So as a short introduction to understand what I'm going to post, in case you're not familiar with the history of East Germany:
There once was a wall between West and East Germany (no shit Sherlock). Do note that all the quotes I'm posting are originally in German (see the original at the end of each quote).

About two months before the wall was built, an Eastern German politician, named Walter Ulbricht, said the following:

"Nobody has the intention of building a wall." ("Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten.") - Walter Ulbricht, 1961

A true master of sarcasm.

Lately there seems to be another politician mastering the arts of sarcasm in Germany, namely Wolfgang Bosbach. I've collected quite a few quotes of him already, so let's just take a look.

"Nobody wants to establish a surveillance state in Germany." ("Es hat niemand vor, einen Überwachungsstaat in Deutschland zu errichten.") - Wolfgang Bosbach, 2007

"Nobody wants to introduce scanners in Germany which optically expose the passenger." ("Niemand will in Deutschland Scanner einführen, die den Passagier optisch entblößen.") - Wolfgang Bosbach, 2010

And his latest addition, just few days old:

"We also don't want that the German armed forces will be converted to some sort of police assistance which can always be called when police forces of the German federation and states are overloaded." ("Wir wollen auch nicht, dass die Bundeswehr zu einer Art Hilfspolizei umfunktioniert wird, die immer dann gerufen werden kann, wenn die Polizeibehörden des Bundes und der Länder überlastet sind") - Wolfgang Bosbach, 2010

Convincing, if you ask me.

Sometimes however he kind of gets lost in his own scheme and actually says things how he truly intends them:

"We badly need a definite legal basis for law enforcement agencies to monitor encrypted communication of terror suspects via the Internet." ("Wir brauchen dringend eine sichere Rechtsgrundlage für die Strafverfolgungsbehörden, um auch verschlüsselte Kommunikation Terrorverdächtiger über das Internet überwachen zu können") - Wolfgang Bosbach, 2010

LOLWUT.

This country clearly needs more security! OMG, we're all going to die because people blow themselves up all the time!
On a totally unrelated note: Choot that pizza chit!

Posted on 2010-11-21 by IceBear

I got up the other day after a long night, not fearing anything being wrong, just the usual morning. Still a little sleepy I turned to my PC just to find this in my face: "Germany on high alert due to 'plot'"
I panicked. Immediately I called my local police station to report these weird looking Middle Easterns who moved in next door. They don't speak German, they don't look German, they just look like a big bomb waiting to explode to me. After what seemed to me the longest half hour of my life, a black van pulled in the driveway, men rushing to my neighbor's door with weapons drawn, kicking the door in. I hear screaming and loud noises. Five minutes later the men escorted these monsters out the door, into the van and tagged them with a yellow star. What a relief.

Oh no, wait. I think I got a little bit confused with history there. Anyhow.

So, I was relieved, lying back proudly in my chair thinking I did a fine service to my country when suddenly the men from the van rang my doorbell. They were probably going to thank me, or so I thought, so I opened the door just to suddenly have a gun in my face and get arrested. What for? The reason seems obvious enough, really. I'm a terrorist. Now that I think about it, it all makes sense. How could I, as a citizen of a democratic country, read articles by a terrorist network like Al Jazeera? What was I thinking? I must have been out of my mind. Of course the Stasi logged what I was doing on the Internet and acted appropriately.

OK, fine. While this might have been a work of fiction in some parts, just take a minute and think about what my point is.

Let me quote what the interior minister of Berlin, Ehrhart Körting, said:

"If we see something in our neighborhood, if suddenly three rather strange-looking people move in who try to keep out of sight and who only speak Arabic or another foreign language that we don't understand, then I think one should make sure the authorities know what is going on." - Ehrhart Körting (Spiegel article)

And with the findings of a "bomb" in Namibia that apparently was headed for Munich, Germany, I have reason to be scared, or do I?
Let's recap.
What appeared to be a "bomb" was found at the airport of Windhoek, Namibia. It was a suitcase which had:

"batteries that were attached with wires to a detonator and a ticking clock". - Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) statement

Later it turned out that this was just a "test". A testing device manufactured in the U.S. for usage at airports and other security areas, to see whether detectors and employees will detect the major threat this device eradiates. Have you seen the device? It's actually pretty funny:

X-RAY TEST OBJECT

It reads:

X-RAY TEST OBJECT NON-HAZARDOUS

and some info about the manufacturer (Larry Copello Inc.) below. On a funny but irrelevant side note, the wiring was apparently done by an 80-year old woman.

Question is, who planted this device? At the moment they're blaming it on a police officer in Namibia.
Whoever they're going to blame it on, let me see if I got this right:
You're telling me a device that appears to be a bomb was found at the airport of Windhoek, Namibia (which once was a German colony) and was supposed to head for Munich, Germany one day after Germany raised their "terrorist threat level" because they're fearing an attack. Really? They're still looking for the culprit?

The only real terrorist here is politics and that's about it.

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