Feeds

Wiki can link to controversial documents, judge rules

Online freedom of speech tested

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Drugs giant Eli Lilly has failed in its bid to restrict a wiki from linking to documents that could be damaging to its business. The ruling of a New York court said the court could not rule against the internet "in its various manifestations".

Though Eli Lilly did obtain an injunction against individuals forcing them to return documents belonging to it and to refrain from disseminating them further, it failed to stop other websites from linking to copies of the documents in a case which is being seen as a vital test of free speech online.

The documents relate to claims that Eli Lilly deliberately downplayed the side effects of its best selling drug Zyprexa, which is meant to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The side effects are said to include weight gain, high blood sugar levels and diabetes.

The company faces a number of product liability law suits in relation to the drug, and has already paid out $1.2bn in pre-court settlements in other cases. One of the judges in one of the cases, Judge Jack Weinstein, had ordered not only individuals but websites to refrain from passing the documents on to other people.

Weinstein has now reversed that decision in relation to the websites, one of which was a wiki, which is a collaborative online information source. It had published a link to the documents, and the possibility of an order for the link's removal was seen as a threat to user-generated content and the wiki publishing model as a whole.

"A difficult issue is presented by Lilly's request to enjoin certain websites from posting the confidential documents," said Weinstein in his judgment. "Prohibiting five of the internet's millions of websites from posting the documents will not substantially lower the risk of harm posed to Lilly. Websites are primarily fora for speech. Limiting the fora available to would-be disseminators by such an infinitesimal percentage would be a fruitless exercise of the court's equitable power."

"A more effective use of the court's equitable discretion is to impose restraints on the individuals who pose the greatest risk of harm to Lilly – those who have not returned the documents despite knowledge that they were illegally procured," said Weinstein. "Mindful of the role of the internet as a major modern tool of free speech, in the exercise of discretion the court refrains from permanently enjoining websites based on the insubstantial evidence of risk of irreparable harm. Restrictions on speech, even in the context of content-neutrality, should be avoided if not essential to promoting an important government interest. No website is enjoined from disseminating documents."

The judge said the websites had published or linked to the documents before being told not to on 4 January, and none had broken that order.

"This ruling makes it clear that Eli Lilly cannot invoke any court orders in its futile efforts to censor these documents off the internet," said EFF staff attorney Fred von Lohmann. "We are disappointed, however, that the judge failed to appreciate that its previous orders constituted prior restraints in violation of the First Amendment."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.