Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers. «walser.php» | walser.php (E-Mail), «walser.php»
walser.php (E-Mail) | Screenshot | ©


In May 2002, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt Daily Newspaper) (FAZ) refused to preprint parts of Martin Walser's latest novel Tod eines Kritikers (Death of a Critic). According to FAZ publisher Frank Schirrmacher, there are blatant parallels between the novel's main character and the famous Jewish literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki. In addition, Schirrmacher rejects the novel due to its «repertoire of anti-Semitic clichés.» Shortly thereafter, the dispute over Walser's novel was passionately pursued in both the German and the international media. To clarify the issues at hand, Walser's publishing house, Suhrkamp Verlag, started to send out copies of the novel to newspapers and television stations. One way to do this was to distribute the novel as a PDF document, which led to the circulation of unlicensed copies on the Web. While Suhrkamp Verlag decided to publish the novel early on 26 June 2002, had already become aware of the electronic manuscript. However, being a pool for electronically published, critical production of texts, did not seem to be too interested in Walser's work, and thus deleted a file titled walser.pdf from the website by moving it into the virtual trash can.1 Shortly afterwards, received a warning2 from Suhrkamp Verlag's legal department for acting against the copyright laws. However, the suspicious file walser.pdf did not contain the notorious manuscript by Walser. Instead, it contained Bruce Sterling's The Hacker Crackdown–Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier. The American author himself had authorized this e-book as Literary Freeware. The book discusses copyright regulations and violations in the field of electronic publication. It thus became obvious that had not violated Suhrkamp Verlag's copyrights, and after a short e-mail correspondence the issue was closed.

On June 24, 2002, made a further strategic step: instead of selling Walser's manuscript directly as a text file for downloading or setting up another link to a corresponding copy, published the 10,000 lines-source code of a Perl script.3 With a Perl interpreter, a ASCII text version of Walser's novel can be generated. While the PHP file itself does not contain a visible and readable version of the text, the manuscript can be distributed as free software under the GNU General Public License of the Free Software Foundation. On the website, makes sure to mention that the script must not be downloaded without the written permission of Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt. Furthermore, the Perl script walser.php contains the utility makewalser.php with which it is possible to create PHP scripts for other texts as well.