Wikipedia Not Liable For Defamation In France

from the hurray-for-safe-harbors dept

We're big believers in the importance of various "safe harbors" that protect online service providers from being responsible for the activities or content of their users. After all, it seems unfair to blame the telephone company if a telephone is used in a crime. However, some people have trouble with that concept -- and some countries don't have the same sort of clear cut safe harbor provisions written into law that the US offers. For example, it seemed pretty ridiculous that France declared Yahoo (yes, the company) and its then CEO war criminals half a decade ago, just because some users had auctioned Nazi memorabilia. After realizing how ridiculous this was, French courts later reversed that ruling -- and now perhaps they recognize the importance of these kinds of safe harbors. Apparently, they even changed the law in 2004 to protect sites from being liable for certain actions of its users -- and that law has been now used to clear Wikipedia of any wrongdoing, after the company behind Wikipedia was sued by three people who were upset about how others had written about them in a Wikipedia article. The court noted that the allegedly defamatory references had been removed and that Wikipedia shouldn't be responsible for that content anyway: "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." Nice to see these kinds of safe harbors getting more widespread acceptance.

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  • Worried about too much freedom of speech.

    I think as a rule, any company that accepts content from a third party that "upsets" another for whatever reason, they should allow that "upset" person or company to respond to any and all accusations made by the original third party.

    The fine line comes in when a comment that is made on a website against a person or company that is so obviously untrue, it should never have been allowed in the first place. Can you really give "Safe Harbor" to this situation?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:40pm

      Re: Worried about too much freedom of speech.

      Of course you can - and should give such safe harbor.

      Would you prefer prior restraint?

      Personally, I don't want prior restraint on anything I say, write, broadcast or blog. It goes against the core principles of American freedom, as well as law.

      Politicians that spout bold faced lies wouldn't want prior restraint, unless it restrains YOU.

      As a voter, I love to hear their lies. It gives an insight into their characters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:44pm

        Re: Re: Worried about too much freedom of speech.

        I forgot to mention - You use the phrase "should never have been allowed in the first place"

        Allowed or forbidden by who? You? A church? What censor would you approve of - and what if I don't agree?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 2 Nov 2007 @ 10:42pm

    Even then

    Do the "safe harbors" want to develop reputations as harbors for scammers, pedophiles, racists, fraudulent scholarship, false accusations? It is in the provider's own interest to exclude the pathological posters. Whether Yahoo/Wikipedia/Google like to admit it or not, their moral burden is growing by the day; they have to go through the labor-intensive task of excluding material that makes them look bad. Technology does not place them above moral obligation to society, despite the wishful thinking of the techie crowd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:16am

      Re: Even then

      Ahh.. dorpus. Devil's advocate or supreme troll?

      Anyway to answer you - no, none of those groups are protected by safe harbour laws. That's because the safe harbour protect the provider, not the poster. In the example above from the French case, the people who felt victimised could have quite happily gone after the people who posted the comments for defamation and won. The ruling didn't say they couldn't. What they did say is that Wikipedia could not be made responsible for the actions of its users. So, while the posters could be held liable for defamation, Wikipedia can't.

      In the same way, to use your trollerific examples, if I used these comments to link to child porn or accuse you of being a rapist, you could quite rightly sue me or report me to the authorities. Techdirt, however, could not be held responsible for my actions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • Re: Opinions to posts

    I agree and see your points about Freedom of Speech and the reasons to protect sites from other's opinion.

    What if a person or company feels they were harmed by a poster on a site and wants access to the name and IP address of the poster? Am I legally required to divulge such information? I hope not.

    There actually is a case right now with Video Professor suing to obtain this information from and their refusal to release such information.

    Video Professor claims they need this information to rectify any problem that any person had with his company and cannot help them without knowing who they are.

    I'm waiting for the outcome of this case.

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I like hearing all the opinions regarding my posts and others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    unclebrendan, 5 Nov 2007 @ 8:57am

    But... its Wikipedia...

    If they were upset about the way they were portrayed, why didn't they just edit and change it? It's a wiki. The largest wiki ever. And if you are looking to sue someone, why target a non-profit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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