Wikipedia not liable for content

French court throws out libel and privacy claims

A French court has ruled that the Wikipedia Foundation, the US-based organisation that runs Wikipedia, the free user-generated internet encyclopedia, is not liable for defamatory content posted on the site by anonymous third parties.

Three Frenchmen brought claims for infringement of privacy and defamation against the web enclyclopedia, which is published in numerous languages, in respect of an entry that labelled them as gay activists. The entry in question was overwritten by a subsequent updater – an activity encouraged by the Wikipedia democratic contributor ethos – but remained visible in the article’s history. Wikipedia denied having received a take down request but complied promptly with the request when the complaint came to its attention.

The claims were dismissed by the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris. The ruling afforded Wikipedia the same protection provided to ISPs under the French implementation of the E-commerce Directive 2000 on the basis that it was ‘hosting’ a service. The Court stated that Wikipedia were not under a duty to investigate or monitor user contributions but liability would arise where a host had been put on notice. It had not been clearly established that Wikipedia had been notified in this case. The Court would not order that Wikipedia identify the anonymous contributor(s).