Wikipedia.de Controversy

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Reportedly (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here), Wikipedia Germany (i.e., Wikimedia Deutschland – Gesellschaft zur F�rderung Freien Wissens e.V.) has been forced by a temporary restraining order of the District Court of Berlin-Charlottenburg not to redirect from http://www.wikipedia.de to http://de.wikipedia.org. The story seems to be straightforward: Wikipedia features a story on the deceased German hacker Tron and – as many other online sources do – also reveals his real name in the respective article. The hacker’s family has taken legal actions against Wikipedia based on the argument that the post qualifies as an intrusion of privacy.

The interesting part of the story: Apparently, the German version of the article is stored on a server in the U.S. controlled by the Wikipedia Foundation. While it is not that surprising that the family’s lawyers were able to get a preliminary injunction against Wikimedia Germany, it is much more challenging to take effective actions against the content provider in the U.S. In my personal view, it’s almost impossible to enforce a similar court order (targeting the article itself, though) in the U.S. based on the privacy argument mentioned above. It’s yet another variation on the theme global internet versus local free speech and privacy laws. And once again the story is likely to boil down to an enforcement issue. In any event, another illustrative example for our privacy classes

My question to the family’s lawyer: Did you tell your client in advance that legal actions against Wikimedia/Wikipedia will get a lot of public attention (trust me on this one) – with the result that many more people will learn about the real name of Tron than would have otherwise? It’s a basic information law – and I use the term ‘law’ not in the legal sense…

Update: check here.

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