Feeds

Judge spikes 'dumbest literary agent' Wikipedia suit

Cult defends free speech

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

An American judge has dismissed a flimsy defamation suit against the cult of Wikipedia.

With a recent ruling (PDF), New Jersey Superior Court Judge James Perri chucked the famous Wikipedia class action brought by New York literary agent Barbara Bauer. Bauer sued Wikipedia's parent operation - the Wikimedia Foundation - at the end of January, claiming that someone had posted a list of the "20 Worst Literary Agents" to the online encyclopedia and dubbed her the list's "dumbest."

The Foundation denied Bauer's story, but it also claimed immunity under Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act. Section 230 protects net sites from liability when their users post defamatory material - even if the site is alerted to the defamation.

You can question the sanity of other American judges, but Judge Perri is among the more level headed. He's well aware of the protections laid down by Section 230. "Wikipedia is a provider and user of an 'interactive computer service' and is therefore immune from all claims asserted against it," reads his ruling.

If anything, Bauer's suit proved that the alleged material posted to Wikipedia wasn't far from the truth. "If you file a suit like this," Santa Clara University law professor and tech law blogger Eric Goldman told us this summer, "maybe you are the dumbest literary agent."

But this cut-and-dry case fueled the usual farce over on Wikipedia itself. Worried about the outcome of the case, Foundation lawyer Mike Godwin ordered Wikipedians not to reinstate the deleted article on Barbara Bauer. He even ordered editors to remove an article on the Bauer case from Wikinews, a completely separate project.

Fair enough. But Godwin was also worried that if he was seen giving orders to Wikipedians, he might invalidate the Foundation's Section 230 immunity. So, in telling Wikipedians to avoid re-posting the Bauer article, he also told them he wasn't telling them to avoid re-posting the Barbara article.

"We recently filed court papers in which we stated that the article is no longer available (as it wasn't when I filed my affidavit). It would be nice if the community didn't turn the Foundation...and me into liars," he says. "I've been trying to keep [Foundation] actions to a minimum...and it would be helpful to be able to say that any given action was taken by the community, not by the Foundation."

Likewise, after Godwin phoned those Wikinews editors and told them to remove their Bauer article, the Foundation insisted he hadn't done so.

We would argue that all this was wholly unnecessary. Even Godwin's co-counsel failed to understand his reasoning where these non-order orders were concerned. But this is Wikiland - an online comedy unlike any other. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
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.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.