Feeds

Online cult decides federal court case

American adjudicators embrace Wikimadness

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
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.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.