Feeds

Online cult decides federal court case

American adjudicators embrace Wikimadness

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really
Windows NEIN skipped, tech preview due out on Wednesday
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'
Plus: 'Pretty sure iOS 8.0.2 will just turn the iPhone into a fax machine'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.