Feeds

Online cult decides federal court case

American adjudicators embrace Wikimadness

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Jimbo Wales and his worldwide online cult are now deciding federal court cases.

Over at the Seventh US Court of Appeals in Chicago, a three-judge panel recently settled a long-standing legal battle by shamelessly citing an entry on Wikipedia. And as you might expect, the entry was edited after the case went to trial.

The case of Rickher v. Home Depot hinged on the meaning of "wear and tear." In suing the American retail giant, John Rickher claimed that the "Damage Waiver" sold alongside Home Depot rental tools was absolutely worthless, arguing that it failed to provide protection above and beyond the company's standard rental agreement. The rental agreement, he pointed out, already covered "wear and tear."

Citing Webster's and Random House - two of the most widely used American dictionaries - Rickher insisted that "wear and tear" is commonly defined as "depreciation, damage, or loss resulting from ordinary use or exposure" or "damage or deterioration resulting from ordinary use." But in the end, the trio of judges ignored those trusted dictionaries in favor of the free encyclopedia anyone can edit without telling the world who they really are.

"Although it is true that dictionary definitions of 'wear and tear' often employ the word 'damage,' that does not mean that damage and 'wear and tear' are synonymous," the ruling (PDF) reads. "Wear and tear is a more specific phrase that connotes the expected, often gradual, depreciation of an item. See Wear and Tear, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wear_and_tear, last visited May 30, 2008."

According to Eugene Volokh, a blog-happy UCLA law professor, using Wikipedia to decide a federal court case is not a good idea. "With a central legal issue, such as the one in this Seventh Circuit case, where there seems to be some contrary evidence, I would be hesitant to trust Wikipedia," he tells the The Reg. "The entry could have been written by almost anybody."

And he doesn't know the half of it.

Volokh also points out that such a decision opens the door to cult-fueled legal tampering. "There's always the risk that the entry could be changed by someone who has an interest in the litigation," he says.

Indeed, the Wikipedia text cited by the court's decision was edited while the Rickher case was still in district court. Judging from a Wikiscanner search, it's unlikely that "wear and tear" entry was rigged. But this is Wikiland. Stranger things have happened. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Microsoft to bake Skype into IE, without plugins
Redmond thinks the Object Real-Time Communications API for WebRTC is ready to roll
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Mozilla: Spidermonkey ATE Apple's JavaScriptCore, THRASHED Google V8
Moz man claims the win on rivals' own benchmarks
Yes, Virginia, there IS a W3C HTML5 standard – as of now, that is
You asked for it! You begged for it! Then you gave up! And now it's HERE!
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings
Oi, Windows, centOS and openSUSE – behave, we're all friends here
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.