Italian court says that Wikipedia cannot be responsible for third party content

Earlier this month the Tribunale di Roma (Rome District Court) had some say on the
liability of hosting providers for third party content. 

It was not an IP case, but rather a slander/defamation one, and concerned the Italian version of the Wikipedia pages dedicated to Italian entrepreneur and politician Antonio Angelucci [the page is still inaccessible on grounds of an earlier interim injunction] and the newspaper known as Il Riformista

Mr Angelucci and his son Giampaolo sued Wikimedia over allegedly defamatory information regarding themselves and published on Wikipedia, each seeking damages for EUR 10m [Merpel could not help but notice that the counsel for the Angeluccis was a certain Antonio Conte. She concluded that he must have been that Conte].

Wikimedia objected that: (1) the information regarding the Angeluccis was either true or did not harm their honour and reputation; and (2) it does not have any editorial control over the content produced by third parties and published on Wikipedia. In other words, Wikipedia is a hosting - not content - provider. 

Ready to contribute but, alas,
no internet connection
The latter is because "Wikipedia is an online open-content collaborative encyclopedia; that is, a voluntary association of individuals and groups working to develop a common resource of human knowledge. The structure of the project allows anyone with an Internet connection to alter its content.

Hence, "Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found [t]here", and "None of the contributors, sponsors, administrators or anyone else connected with Wikipedia in any way whatsoever can be responsible for the appearance of any inaccurate or libelous information or for your use of the information contained in or linked from [its] web pages." 

This also means that users "are being granted a limited license to copy anything from [its] site; it does not create or imply any contractual or extracontractual liability on the part of Wikipedia or any of its agents, members, organizers or other users." 

Speaking of hosts,
no one can be more gracious than Gustavo
The Tribunale rejected the plaintiffs' claim, and held that in running the Wikipedia project Wikimedia merely "hosts on its servers information provided by its users" [cf the recent criticism of the Tribunale di Torino, which suggested that this definition of hosting may have become obsolete]

Furthermore, "there is no contractual relationship between the authors of the information and the hosting provider", and actually the Wikipedia project is all about encouraging third party contributions. Hence, Wikimedia cannot be considered responsible for the information hosted on its platform.

According to the Tribunale Wikimedia is not subject to the provisions of Legislative Decree 70/2003 by which Italy transposed the Ecommerce Directive into its own legal system, in that it is established outside the territory of the EU. Nonetheless the regime envisaged by that piece of legislation may be taken into consideration for guidance, in particular in the part in which it provides that a hosting provider may only be responsible for third parties' infringements when it has actual knowledge of the presence of illegal content or, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness does not act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the content. 

Neither was the case of Wikimedia, concluded the Court.
Italian court says that Wikipedia cannot be responsible for third party content Italian court says that Wikipedia cannot be responsible for third party content Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Rating: 5

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