Jump to content

Submissions/Wikipedia vs. the courts

From Wikimania


This is an Open submission for Wikimania 2017 that has not yet been reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Submission no. 4004 Subject - LE2
Title of the submission
Wikipedia vs. the courts (sub-title: How Wikipedia influences and is targeted by the law. A comparative perspective)
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Piotr Sitnik - user:Myopic pattern
type of submission
Language of presentation
E-mail address
petersitnik@gmail.com, piotr.sitnik.14@ucl.ac.uk
user:Myopic pattern
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Wikimedia Polska, University College London
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (up to 300 words to describe your proposal)

As of 2017, Wikipedia has been quoted in more than 400 judicial opinions in the U.S. alone, and 200+ cases in England and Wales. Courts have taken judicial notice of Wikipedia content, based their reasoning on Wikipedia entries, and decided dispositive motions on the basis of Wikipedia content. Wikimedia Foundation has faced numerous libel actions across a string of jurisdictions, some of which it lost, whilst winning the others. Wikipedia pages have on occasion been censored by Internet providers and other third party actors in an attempt to sanitize its contents.

The lecture aims at providing a snapshot of the most important legal implications concerning Wikipedia and the WIkimedia Foundation in the modern world. Rampant proliferation of Wikimedia projects has posed challenges to legal systems with respect to such concepts as freedom of speech, censorship, defamation, privacy and intellectual property. The talk tracks a handful of pertinent judicial pronouncements and furnishes a comprehensive analysis of the literature with a view to distilling a number of corollaries which would help reconcile the ramifications of Wikipedia development with the strictures of legislation.

Particular attention will be paid to the discrepancies in their treatment of the above issues by courts in different jurisdictions. A few cases will be shed light upon - from Canada, Germany, USA and Italy.


Court cases


  • Barnett E., Baer R., “Embracing Wikipedia as a research tool for law: to Wikipedia or not to Wikipedia?”, 45(2) The Law Teacher 2011, 194-213.
  • Davis M.E., Byers M., “The Remedies for Defamation on Wikipedia”, 33(20) The Lawyers Weekly 2013, http://www.cmblaw.ca/assets/files/pdf/The%20remedies%20for%20defamation%20on%20Wikipedia.pdf
  • Gerken J.L., „How Courts Use Wikipedia”, 11(1) Journal of Appellate Practice and Process 2010, 191-227.
  • McIntosh B.M., “Gamecocks Spur Trouble in Jury Deliberations: What the Fourth Circuit Really Thinks About Wikipedia as a Legal Resource in United States v. Lawson”, 64 South Carolina Law Review 2013, 1157-1165.
  • Miller J.C., Murray H.B., “Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate”, 84 St John’s Law Review 2010, 633-656.
  • Myers K.S., “Wikimmunity: Fitting the Communications Decency Act to Wikipedia”, 20(1) Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 2006, 163-208.
  • Peoples L.F., “The Citation of Blogs in Judicial Opinions”, 13 Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property 2010, 39-80.
  • Peoples L.F., “The Citation of Wikipedia in Judicial Opinions”, 12(1) Yale Journal of Law and Technology 2009, 1-51.
  • Wagner A.L., “Wikipedia Made Law? The Federal Judicial Citation of Wikipedia”, 29 John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law 2008, 229-257.
  • Walsh K.M., Oh S., ”Self-Regulation: How Wikipedia Leverages User-Generated Quality Control Under Section 230”, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1579054

News and online sources

What will attendees take away from this session? Attendees will gain insight into the legal ramifications of editing in Wikipedia (and potentially other Wikimedia projects). Questions to be explored include
  • Can a Wikipedian be held liable for libel?
  • What must a Wikipedian do to be cited in a court case?
  • Is the rule of law strengthened or debilitated by references to Wikipedia?
  • Can Wikipedia react (and if so, how should it) to censorship coming from the outside?
Theme of presentation

Legal & Free Culture

For workshops and discussions, what level is the intended audience?

N/A (proper understanding of the lecture may be enhanced through acquaintance with legal terminology, particularly within private law)

Length of session (if other than 25 minutes, specify how long)
25 minutes, however a longer slot may be worthwhile to accommodate a discussion.
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Subject to the outcome of a scholarship application.
Slides or further information (optional)
A PowerPoint presentation is to be prepared. It will serve as roadmap for the flow of the argument during the talk.
Special requests
Is this Submission a Draft or Final?

This is a Completed submission for Wikimania 2017 ready to be reviewed by a member of the Programme Committee.

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).

  1. BDavis (WMF) (talk) 02:45, 13 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Anne Delong (talk) 06:21, 16 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Geraldshields11 (talk) 16:02, 21 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  4. --Gnom (talk) 13:30, 26 March 2017 (UTC) Let's make Wikipedia green![reply]
  5. Thomas Planinger (VfGH) (talk) 15:27, 26 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Rhododendrites (talk) 14:02, 30 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Ziko (talk) 16:46, 30 March 2017 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Airwolf (talk) 18:21, 7 April 2017 (UTC)[reply]