[Wikimedia-l] Weibel case -- lessons learnt?

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[Wikimedia-l] Weibel case -- lessons learnt?

Jennifer Pryor-Summers
In a recent blog post *A German court forced us to remove part of a
Wikipedia article’s ‘history.’ Here’s what that means* at
Rogers and Alison Davenport write

> A German court ruled in September of last year that the content was in
fact defamatory, largely because the source in question had been taken
offline—what we call “link rot.”

This is not correct, and suggests that the lessons of this affair have not
been fully taken on board by WMF Legal, and that gives rise to the risk
that they WMF may be giving bad advice to volunteers, leaving them -- and
the Foundation of course -- exposed to further legal claims.

The first reason that the court found that the content was defamatory was
that it was both damaging to Prof, Weibel's reputation and, importantly,
*false*.  The statements relied were irresponsible media speculation.  The
second reason was that under German law the definition of a reliable source
is significantly more restrictive than that commonly held by Wikipedians.
The third reason was that the WMF had failed to respond correctly, in terms
of German law, to Prof. Weibel's complaint.  None of these have anything to
do with "link rot".  If volunteers are left with the impression that they
are somehow safe from libel action in Germany provided that links are kept
up to date, then that is dangerously misleading.  This error is compinded
by the statement

> it does not impose any new editorial standards on individual Wikipedia

which is incorrect: as noted, the definition of a reliable source in the
applicable law is different from Wikipedia's editorial standards.

If the WMF is claiming to give legal advice to volunteers, it needs to
ensure that the advice it gives is correct.


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