Martin Walser's fame as a German national hero dates back to 1998, when he was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In accepting the prize, Walser not only suggested that a "routine of accusations" against Germans had developed, and declared that he felt in himself "something that begins to resist the permanent presentation of our shame", but also stated that Auschwitz had become "a routine threat, a tool of intimidation that can be used any time, a moral stick or merely a compulsory exercise", and critizied the "exploitation of our disgrace for present purposes", an apparent reference to financial claims by Jews who survived the Holocaust. Walser's speech was applauded, and later defended, by almost the entire political and cultural establishment in Germany.
In May 2002, just weeks after prominent members of the German Liberal Party had denounced Israel's policies as "Nazi methods" and accused the Central Council of Jews of formenting anti-semitism with their criticism of such comparisons, Suhrkamp Verlag announced the release of Walser's new novel "Death of a Critic". A few days before, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) had refused to publish it serially, and had quoted some of the anti-semitic stereotypes that the book is dripping with. The critic who falls victim to Walser's alter ego is obviously modeled after Marcel Reich-Ranicki, former literary editor of the FAZ, who is a survivor of Auschwitz, and whose entire family was killed during the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. But Suhrkamp argued that the German public had the right to judge for themselves, citing the "tradition of enlightenment" that the publishing house felt obliged to.
So much for the background. On June 15, 2002, an unspecified person named "firstname.lastname@example.org" was served a cease-and-desist order by Luebbert Briessmann Rauch, the lawyers of Suhrkamp Verlag, claiming he or she had made available for download the PDF version of "Death of a Critic" (scheduled for release on June 26), which Suhrkamp itself had started to mail out for promotion two weeks before. (Ironically, the file they were mistaking for Walser's novel was Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder at the Electronic Frontier") The charges and penalties Luebbert Briessmann Rauch were trying to collect from the unspecified person were: EUR 100,000 in case the non-existing PDF did not disappear and he or she sent them some legalese within 5 hours, up to EUR 50,000 since textz.com (which is registered and hosted in the U.S.) was violating the "Kennzeichnungsanforderungen" of the German "Teledienstegesetz" (sic!), and a legal fee of EUR 1,201.80 for the delivery of the cease-and-desist order. Furthermore, they announced an unspecified person named "email@example.com" was going to be charged with a criminal offense before the Munich District Court, claiming he or she had referred to Mr. Walser as an "asshole" in a comment on a mailing list. (Both their letter and the reply they received from New York are documented at http://textz.com/trash/walser.txt)
The fact that "humanity won't be happy until the last copyright holder is hung by the guts of the last patent lawyer" has already been stated elsewhere. But until then, humanity may at least regularly be amused by their blatant incompetence. So instead of spreading paranoia (like most "internet experts" in Germany do since the weblog schockwellenreiter.de was served a similar cease-and-desist order by the same law firm, just for linking to another copy of the said PDF), textz.com has decided to come up with something productive. Today, we are proud to announce the release of walser.php (http://textz.com/trash/walser.php.txt), a 10,000- line php script that is able to generate the plain ascii version of "Death of a Critic". The script can be redistributed and modified (and, of course, linked to) under the terms of the GNU General Public License, but may not be run without written permission by Suhrkamp Verlag. Of course, reverse-engineering the writings of senile German revisionists is not the core business of textz.com, so walser.php includes makewalser.php, a utility that can produce an unlimited number of similar (both free as in speech and free as in copy) php scripts for any digital text.
On June 19, Suhrkamp has apparently withdrawn their charges against the incriminated weblog, and the fact that they haven't replied to e-mail so far (in fact they didn't even take a look at the 1x1 pixel gifs included, and it's hard to imagine they're using mutt or pine) indicates that they may have decided to stop wasting the time and bandwidth of textz.com as well. Even mainstream media that ran the story had to admit that spamming journalists with e-books was probably not the best start to a campaign against piracy. Still, there is one question that remains wide open: When visiting textz.com, weren't their lawyers one click away from the works of Adorno (also copyrighted by Suhrkamp, in fact one of their best-selling authors, and also the one who explained how the "tradition of enlightenment" leads directly to the gas chamber)? We have two concurring explanations for this. One is that their lack of competence is just way beyond our imagination. The other one would be: They really don't care, as long as it's a Jewish critic.