by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 2nd 2007 3:26pm
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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