|Wikipedia Cleared in French Defamation Case|
Web site hosts cannot be liable under civil law in France
From an article at NY Times, Wikipedia is not liable for their content according to French judge, Emmanuel Binoche.
|Web site hosts cannot be liable under civil law because of information stored on them if they do not in fact know of their illicit nature |
[edited by: rogerd at 7:35 pm (utc) on Nov. 6, 2007]
It's good news.
Mind you, in most countries, it never would have come to court; it's long been accepted that 'open' sites like Wikipedia are safe from legal action, so long as they remove offensive material 'in a timely manner' - once it has been reported.
In this case, only one of the plaintiffs even claimed to have reported it, and Wikipedia denied receipt; so they didn't really have a hope.
Weird in the 21st century to see someone suing because they were accused of being gay...
BTW - I can't get your links to work - this is from the register (is that OK?)
[edited by: Quadrille at 4:39 pm (utc) on Nov. 5, 2007]
[edited by: rogerd at 7:37 pm (utc) on Nov. 6, 2007]
I agree that this wasn't a strong case. However we are now at the point where nobody is responsible for the content on Wikipedia. If you are defamed, there is nobody to sue.
The problem is deeper than that. You can open a blogspot account from an Internet Cafe using an email address that does not exist and although blogspot email you to ask you to confirm, you do not have to in order for you to publish. You can go straight in and type out whatever BS you like and then slam the URL onto a few forums and see it appear a few days later in Google SERP's.
Unfortunately you can not even sue the hosting company / service provider in the USA even if you advise them, unless they have it in their mandate or interest to do so. I should know, I had an article published on me that I was a convicted criminal by an aggrieved business competitor on his own commercial web site hosted in the USA. I took it to the Supreme Court but my dumb a lawyer filed the appeal 2 days after the deadline (it was over the Xmas / New Year period and his paralegal was none too sharp); although I ultimately got my money back, the article was left there for permanent under US law. I was about to sue the bar steward in the UK (civil libel jurisdiction being portable), so that I could block the hosting company's server farm IP range through the London Internet Exchange that ultimately serves most of the EU, but instead went another route due to cost, time, etc.
Recently someone published a defamatory bog about someone else and made it look like it was me, down to the specific blog name. The recipient of this blog went mad and threatened to do unto me; I even had a (sort of) lawyer call me threatening legal action. I tried to contact the blog writer, who had previously emailed me from a gmail account which does not show IP addresses of course, but never got a response. I tried using the "forgot password" feature on the blog even as I have blogged myself, forgot the password, used that feature and it says "a new password has been sent to your email address at domain.tld". So I hoped it might give me a clue or even confirmation of who was behind it. When I did this to the blog made to look like it came from me, the little b'er had even used a domain.tld I use. So not only can people publish false krap that appears high in search returns anonymously, they can even make it look like someone else had done it, and there is nothing you can do.
Truly, I think US Internet law is a joke.
>> However we are now at the point where nobody is responsible for
>> the content on Wikipedia. If you are defamed, there is nobody to sue.
Wikipedia is no different to any other 'open' site, such a as a forum, blog etc.
The person who wrote it is responsible, but that usually doesn't help. Your recourse is to ask Wikipedia (or whatever site is hosting the libel) to remove the copy; if they don't, you can sue.
It isn't a perfect solution, as the stuff hangs around for a while, and in very rare instances, spreads far and wide.
But consider the alternative; no blogs, no guest books, no forums, no usenet. It's a freedom of expression thing.
On balance, it is not too bad. Not perfect, but not too bad.
"They accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it." ~ Nelba Blandon
|Your recourse is to ask Wikipedia (or whatever site is hosting the libel) to remove the copy; if they don't, you can sue. |
Who would you sue? Wikipedia is immune, and its contributors can be as anonymous as they wish. They could be sitting at an internet cafe in London or Mexico City or Bangkok. There is nobody you can sue.
|But consider the alternative; no blogs, no guest books, no forums, no usenet. It's a freedom of expression thing. |
I'm all for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but the flip side of the coin of freedom is accountability.
To quote a very old, hackneyed saying, "with freedom comes responsibility." That's not true online. It should come with responsibility, but it doesn't.
This issue is a sleeper, but it's very much alive.
|Mind you, in most countries, it never would have come to court; it's long been accepted that 'open' sites like Wikipedia are safe from legal action, so long as they remove offensive material 'in a timely manner' - once it has been reported. |
I'm not sure that sites are 'legally safe'. If someone has been defamed and they choose to sue, then they can still do so. Certainly in the UK, the owner of a website is deemed a publisher and is responsible for any content that is 'published' on their site.
If the publisher takes steps to remove offending content, then it's more a case of things potentially being seen more favourably. But it certainly is not a getout clause. I suspect that the French example is an exception in Europe.
As I understand it (and I'm not a lawyer) US law is somewhat different from many other parts of the world with regards to this and other internet issues, such as privacy for example.