Monday, March 28, 2016

A successful Freedom of Information request for - vintage German porn

The blogster didn't intend to write about this piece of weird news.* It was mentioned in the German press almost two years ago and was shrugged off by the K-Landnews.

Until today.

A podcast episode of 99% Invisible about the German "Giftschrank" system led to some chit chat and the remark: Have you heard about the guy who filed a freedom of information request for vintage German porn?

First a brief summary of the "Giftschrank" system, the poison cabinet. Giftschrank is the traditional nickname of locations, usually part of institutional libraries, where governments historically stored banned literature. The effort started shortly after the printing press became popular, the press allowing all sorts of subversive, revolutionary or otherwise dangerous literature to be produced in large numbers.

The episode talks about the history of Giftschranks from the 1600s through modern times in Germany and includes some funny anecdotes about their use in East Germany.

You should listen to the podcast.

Now, to the episode of German vintage porn and a freedom of information request: An unknown porn aficionado was looking for a certain reel from 1983 but could not find a copy for sale anywhere.

His quest (assuming this was a male venture) eventually took him to the German office of youth protection's media products evaluation unit. The office looks at media products (books, mags, movies, video games, etc), and any items deemed potentially distressing or dangerous to young minds are put on an "index", which severely limits the sales channels and bans commercials for the wares.

Since the censors need to look at the potentially offending material, they keep a copy - another Giftschrank.

So, the porn fan figured that any product stored by this government agency is a government record and thus a legitimate target for a freedom of information request.

The office of youth protection did not agree and refused to send a copy of the requested porn movie.

Undeterred, the requester sued in administrative court.

And won.

According to the article from 2014, the office intended to appeal the decision. However, we could not find any further information about any appeal and assume they may have dropped it.

* Or we did and forgot already.

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