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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy
Even Moore's Law can't help the architects of statism now
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
New voting rules leave innocent Brits at risk of SPAM TSUNAMI
Read the paperwork very carefully - or fall victim to marketing shysters
Rimini Street promises 'business as usual' after Oracle IP judgment
Rimini's wrong on Oracle database licence, says judge
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.