It does not matter where the servers are!
To fall foul of UK libel law requires only that one of the people responsible for the site resides in the UK. Where the servers are is totally irrelevant!
Jimmy Wales has claimed that he couldn't have founded Wikipedia in the UK because the nation's libel law adds unpredictability and "friction" to hosting the world's largest unreliable collection of factoids. It's an echo of the notorious claim made by Prime Minister David Cameron that Google could not have started out in the …
For English (really, England and Wales, but pedantry, you know) libel law to apply it matters only that publication takes place in England. The loading into a browser is publication.
Therefore it matters only that a reader of a libel is in England for the libel to have been committed in England.
True, if the servers aren't here, no money is here etc. then winning a case won't do all that much good. But it's still a libel which can be sued for.
Where do you get your misinformation -- Wikipedia?
> Under UK Law,
Libel is only a crime in some of the UK, in Scotland we call it Defamation. However whichever UK court you appear in truth is an absolute defence. Here is a link to an Out-Law article that covers most of the bases:
It's not just whether something is true or not. In this country Libel laws assume you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent, and you can't get legal aid to defend yourself. So you will just get large corporations suing people to stop valid criticisms of them.
Just ask The McLibel Campaign
> large corporations suing people to stop valid criticisms of them.
Robert Maxwell managed to suppress exposure of his evil for most of his career with the threat of financial ruin for whistle-blowers. In other cases e.g. deb[ the amount of costs that can be awarded to the pursuer is limited, and cannot be racked up to a level that the defendant cannot afford to continue.
We all owe a lot to Private Eye
No, libel laws assume innocence until guilt is proven.
As in, if you say i'm a thief I am considered to be innocent of that charge, and you are considered to be slandering me until you produce proof that your statement is true. If you can't do that because i'm not a thief then that's your lookout.
It would be a stupid system that allowed you to make any claim you wanted without evidence. I can't see how anybody but our newspapers would benefit from a system where you have to prove that you are innocent of claims someone else makes about you.
Peter2 - Does this sound like Innocent until proven guilty:
Because of the antiquated presumption of falsity, libel law requires the defendant to do all the heavy work of proving either the truth of their allegations; or that their publication constitutes fair comment; or that they were protected by some form of privilege – such as the absolute privilege of a parliamentarian, or the qualified privilege of some journalists. There is no requirement for the claimant to establish the falsity of the allegation; nor are they required to show that it has caused them any tangible harm or that the defendant has made any allegations recklessly or maliciously.
(Taken from www.libelreform.org)
I think you have got the role of defendant and claimant mixed up - this basically says that if you say I am a thief, then I can accuse you of libel on that basis alone. You then have to prove that I am a thief to defend the court case - if I actually am a thief, but you can't prove it, then you have committed libel.
And truth is an absolute defense to libel.
Which leaves the only people wanting significant reform to the libel laws being newspapers and a few internet trolls, as so far as I can see. I can't see why anybody else would want to change the laws on this when they are clearly benefiting us.
I personally think that newspapers fear being hit by punitive damages in libel cases more than they fear being ordered to publish an apology by the press complaints commission. (and that apology will be before page 35 and more than font size 1, honest!)
When you say they are "clearly benefiting us" I don't see that.
If I was to say something (which is true, and i have evidence to back it up) about someone who has a lot of money, I would be bankrupted by the current system before it got to court, as I could not get legal aid and it would be very unlikely that anyone would take it on a no win no fee basis.
I think you'll find that under the current system it's not the truth but money that is an absolute defence to libel. Just look at the original example of McLibel a few posts above. They proved a lot of what they said was true, but they lost the case on a few points which they could not fully prove, some of which has been proven since. They were beaten because they were forced into paying for numerous witnesses to travel across the world, and putting their wholes lives on hold for years while it went through the process.
So the solution is to allow anybody to make any accusation such as my example of being a thief with no punishment, and it's the responsibility for the person who's innocent to disprove the accusation that they are a thief in a court of law at their expense?
So if a large newspaper ruins your reputation with a baseless accusation and leaves you unable to get a job because any employer googling your name gets a newspaper article saying that your a thief, that's fine and dandy and it's the accused's responsibility to bring a court case and prove that accusations made are baseless? How the hell are you supposed to disprove that your a thief to a standard required in a court or law?!
That would have the effect of allowing any accusation to be made without a shred of evidence being required, do you think that the removal of any penalties for telling lies or fabrications would have a positive or negative effect on the standard of material coming out of the Daily Mail et al?
Common sense dictates that the person making the accusation has to prove it. It's the very basis of our law that somebody is innocent until they are proven guilty.
Having just seen the DotCom raid video release today then I can only wonder the outcome if wiki had a entry Hollywood did not like, let alone any fear of the DNS entry.
Does seem a bit odd though that two .uk sites can be covered by different laws mearly based upon the server location.
"In fact, Britain has had several online encyclopaedia projects that anyone can contribute to. One is the Knowhere Guide, which has been online since 1994. It is archived at the British Library, but doesn't have a Wikipedia entry."
If anyone cared, they could create a Wikipedia entry. The way the article is written, it looks like a complaint, I would think the author had the skills to create an entry for it.
Having taken a look at the Knowhere Guide I'm surprised it hasn't quietly died.
Part of me likes that sentence, and relishes the effect.
The other part checks the Wikipedia pages on our solar system, and science in general, and finds that the sentence does not really apply - at least not until some creationist gets a hold of editing rights.
Then I remember all the hoopla that occurs systematically around any topical subject, and I can't help but feel that it applies perfectly.
In other words, yes, Wikiland still has a way to go before the label "reliable" can be applied.
I don't really care about people, living or otherwise; I often go to Wikipedia for programming references (the articles on the multilayer perceptron and the Shunting-yard algorithm are very good) and the odd science article. I took a look into H2G2 and it doesn't have near the same depth in either; so you can keep your "Wikipedia done right", I'll have Jimbo's Wonderland over it any day.
In other words, yes, Wikiland still has a way to go before the label "reliable" can be applied.
Unlikely, since it's based on UDP*. Building a BGP** layer on top might make it a little better though.
* Unreliable Dictionary Protocol
** Byzantine General Protocol
.....it is the fact that if some were put up, Wikipedia could be dragged through the UK courts for something that their editorial model cannot control. It is that potential that prevents Wikipedia from operating in the UK.
Of course, I'm not saying that all the articles are squeaky-clean....
"Wikipedia could be dragged through the UK courts for something that their editorial model cannot control."
That's because their editorial model is "yeah, whatever". It's not the law's place to support every lazy business model that comes along (*cough*Googlebooks*cough*Youtube*cough*).
Say what you like about the Wiki-group (subtly creepy and slightly annoying, IMHO) but they're absolutely right about our dodgy libel laws. When a Saudi businessmen sues a US publisher over his ALLEGED terrorist financing, why on earth would he choose the UK to file the case? Because our libel laws work in his favour, that's why.
Fair enough, but how can this situation be fixed. Firstly does it need to be fixed with regards to libel laws as I'm thinking not. Secondly I wonder why Google could not of started (or somebody like google) in the UK as I fail to see how libel laws could of been a shortcomming for them at the start.
That said I was also under the impression that the Holland was very suited towards privacy and in that may of been a better fit for wiki at the start. Given the pirate bay was a EU entity that could not of started in America then I would say there are pro's and con's and in that each country is unique in what it offers and does not offer in so much that some are helpful and some are not for some and are compeletely reveresed for others.
Also I'd say that bandwith costs and server costs for wiki were far more competitive compared to the UK at the time as well, that in itself is a huge factor I would of thought.
As a aside I was once told by a friend that if you realy want to libel somebody then do it in court as your protected then and that hitting the person was a good way to get your stage to libel them without recourse. Not the best advise all those years back and one I have not used, but does somewhat put the whole libel aspect into focus.
I also appreciete that for the country that we gain more income from libel tourists than we do from any possible wiki tourists we may or may not be missing out upon due to the servers location and with that I can only start to get a grasp of Mr Wales frustration at the question even being asked and is probably comparable to McDonalds being asked why there is no outlet at the north or indeed south poles perhaps.
Jimmy Wales is quite correct. Even if the allegation is not false, the cost off fighting the suit in the UK can be ruinous so all the "wronged" person has to have is more money than the other guy. Someone said you a naughty person? Claim a libel and bankrupt them, most people will simply pull the claim (even if ture) as they can't afford the defence.
There is nothing to stop Wikipedia getting sued in the UK, libel tourism is a thriving business here and our judges (like USA ones) love to rule on things where they really should have no say.
Gee, reading that line one would think the author has Wikipedia and Uncyclopedia confused.
Some articles and editors should be culled from Wiki as they are not authoritative or reliable but to dismiss the WHOLE of it for a few flaws.
Its a decent enough tool for getting a general grasp of a subject. You should complement whatever you read in there with some hard sources. The same thing you should do when you read a paper book. You think non-digital authors don't have biases, prejudices and errors in judgement?
You are right. Seems to me from this and other of Andrew's posts on Wikipedia he has a bee in his bonnet about Wikipedia. Maybe he's a founder of one of the other services he mentions? For my part Wikipedia is a great first hit for some background.
Perhaps there's some truth to AO's allegation that Wikipedia is a cult. But the advantage of that status is it became well known. Network effects [see Wikipedia for definition!] are important in any enterprise: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Wikipedia. If the enterprise does not have a ground swell it may have many virtues but being the first thing people think of in the relevant scenario is not one of them. We may be intelligent but we have limited on-the-spot recall so need these network effects in order to be productive.
Anyone who wathes the news or reads the papers should assume that the uncontentious or easy to verify stuff is probably right (lying about england's medal tally, for instance, would be pointless and easy to spot).
The harder to verify something is (eg. Fine points of cutting edge science research or 'he said - she said' points about a person's reputation) and the more controversial (eg. Creationism - however silly it is that the controversy exists) the more careful you should be with the info.
Does that make it worthless? Not to me. Would I rely for a critical decision on anything from wikipedia without verification? No.
Do the presumed flaws in their organisation mean they should shut up about Britain's absurd libel laws? Hell no.
And for the person who said that server location didn't matter because british libel laws claim essentially global jurisdiction the key is that britain would have a hard time enforcing any judgement to gag wikipedia when the servers are abroad.
If they're here? Easy. Uk based servers are unequivocally subject to uk based laws.
You haven't been paying attention, then. Just about every technology of importance with significant development in the United States has been the subject of lawsuits.
Wright Brothers vs. Curtiss
(note: after the Wrights got the airplane working really well, in the 1905 "B" model, they literally boxed it away until 1909, while they tried to get the patents squared away. Curtiss, Bell, and Chanute literally reinvented it in the US, as did inventors elsewhere. Curtiss used flaps, which might arguably not have been covered by the Wright's patent on aircraft control)
Graham Bell vs. Elisha Gray (telephone)
RCA (Zworykin) vs. Farnsworth (television)
Marconi vs. Tesla (radio)
Mauchly and Eckert vs. Atanasoff (Honeywell vs. Sperry-Rand) (computers)
Schottky vs. Armstrong (superheterodyne amplification_
RCA vs. Armstrong (FM)
Early first millenium?
That would have been earlier than 500AD, then, roughly twelve or thirteen hundred years before the USPTO would be conjured into being. The second millenium began when the first one ended, in 1001AD, and we're now eleven  years into the third millenium.
 Yes, yes, I know that the departed Ms Bee forbade anyone to say here that the third millenium began on 1 January 2001, but it is nonetheless true.
*Any* sufficiently successful collaraborative effort will eventually have a public profile that makes it attractive to trolls and spammers.
As long as your blog, forum or encyclopedia stays below the radar, the cost-benefit tradeoff favours those who are doing it for altruistic reasons. Eventually, though, you get a wide enough audience that the trolls start thinking you are an easy place to dump their "message", whatever that might be. (At that point, you should start worrying about your legal position no matter where you live.)
I noticed this same effect on the Kindle store last night whilst looking for holiday reading. Apparently more than one idiot has discovered that you can self-publish a pile of tosh and then (for good measure) bacon slice it into several hundred piles of tosh, each retailing for a few pennies. The detailed listings are therefore dominated by lots of "books" that are the librarian's equivalent of spam.
Sometimes a barrier to entry is a good thing.
...prepend everything with "I think".
To use a previous example, rather than saying "Jimbo Wales sucks wet farts out of dead pigeons", you say "I think Jimbo Wales sucks wet farts out of dead pigeons".
It is now an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact, and as such is immune from libel laws.
OpenStreetMap is a great example of a "something everyone can edit" that started in the UK.
Not sure what it tells us in the context of this story. I suspect that to a large degree it's a matter of luck or random chance ("butterfly flaps its wings" etc) whether it's Linux Torvalds and Jimmy Wales and Facebook who succeed rather than some other Tom, Dick & Harry.
as demonstrated by that famous #superinjunction TT from last year. Jimbo is right on this one.
But he also fails to see stuff like the real-life H2G2, and that the Wikipedia *itself* is based on D. Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" concept. Remember one of the reasons it sold better than the Encyclopaedia Galactica? ;)
Wikipedia's not too bad as long as when you go there you know that the information isn't necessarily fact checked. There's an awful lot of good encylopedic content there, and that shouldn't be over looked. However, as others have mentioned, once anything gets to a certain point of popularity it will attract spammers, trolls, and marketing people, all out to get their point across while hopefully stopping other points of view.
I can see where the comparison with h2g2 comes in, they're both community content sites. But the similarities do fade. Wikipedia is very much a top down structure, whilst h2g2 is actually partly owned by the community as well as being run by them. Wikipedia is a more in-depth reference in areas, where h2g2 is more of a Guide.
The easiest way to see the difference is to look up alcohol in each of them.
(full disclosure, I am the technical lead at h2g2)
My understanding of UK law was that the creator was responsible for their content. I'm the creator of this comment, not The Register, and if I say something naughty I thought I was the one who got punished for it. Dammit I have been ever so polite for years, yet this article seems to be saying I can be saying whatever I want to and the website I post it on will take the heat for it. I know Reg moderates so possibly a bad example, but I don't need to list websites that allow instant publishing without moderation of any kind.
Last week it wasn't Twitter in trouble for that disgusting statement someone made on their platform. It was the poster.
UK law is pretty simple on this: everyone involved in the process of publishing a defamatory statement to a third-party is technically liable for libel. There is a defence in the schedule to the Defamation Act that exempts, say, ISPs from being liable for libel committed by their users over their networks. The same defence is used by websites that allow unmoderated comments.
So if you want to sue a newspaper for libel, you can sue the writer, the news editor, sub-editor, the revise sub-editor, the production editor, the editor, the publisher and anyone else who participated in the story. Usually, though, you go after the money: the publisher.
Similar goes for websites: the comment poster, the web master, the host, etc. Having Wikipedia based in the UK makes it easier for a claimant to pin down those in the chain - but not having a server in the UK doesn't make it immune to proceedings in England, it just makes it harder to get someone into court.
And as for Twitter, that was a criminal investigation by the police into threats made over electronic communications. Libel is a civil matter and totally different.
PS: For those suggesting adding "I think" to a sentence makes it immune to action, consider the case of a music concert reviewer who was successfully sued for an opinion that wasn't substantially based on the truth.
Really? If it's so easy then whey isn't everyone doing it?
Your saying he had to be stupid to not make money, but I expect it was more likely that he was not scummy and underhanded enough to compete in the porn market.
I wrote a fair amount of the initial 'Roger Bacon' entry, since that was my Masters topic. (You know - the inventor of Science in 1240. Interestingly, his 800th is next year - no one is celebrating it). That survived for about 6 months, and then it was overwritten by a Catholic apologist anxious to minimise Bacon's position in history....
Recently I had occasion to look at the Piltdown Man entry. There was a period between 1912 and about 1945 when the Piltdown find was thought to be genuine, and the Australopithecus discoveries were suppressed by the paleontological establishment. About 30 years of possible advance were lost. The entry says little about that under the 'Impact' heading - in fact it says that we must say there was little or no impact, because creationists use this incident to show that scientists CAN be wrong, and that should not be allowed. The rest of the 'Impact' heading is given over to a feminist diatribe complaining that 'Piltdown Man' should not be called 'Man'. I corrected some of the worst distortions, and they were replaced within a day.
I've given up. Perhaps someone else can ask Wales why a piece on a notable scientific fraud is hijacked by anti-creationists and feminists....?
"It takes a particular kind of entrepreneurial genius to fail to make money from web filth"
That's not true at all. To make more than a pittance in web filth you have to be able to compete with Brazzers. You can make enough to get by as a reasonably charming pervert with a digital camcorder and a website (as many reasonably charming perverts do), but running a company takes a bit more.
Although I must agree with you Brits....consensus is no way to evaluate truth. After all there is great consensus that Justin Beiber is either a good muscian or a girl, and clearly neither of those is actually true (at least I'm fairly certain Beiber isn't a girl).
I can't remember the article now, but it was saying:
People who spend too long on the internet suffer from a lack of real life friendships and may actually end up being socially isolated.
This was flagged to fuck. Citations needed left right and centre. About twenty of them pounced on this one statement. If it was a troll, it was a top one. I suppose they did not see the irony let alone the sadness in their actions.
...Can not make outrageous statements like this - please backup.... no proof of claim... eh eh.....
Wikipedia is great for finding out whatever happened to that lead singer of that 80's band, yes Tony Hadley, I am looking at you, but I wouldn't trust it with the facts, ma'am.
Funny bunch. Wonder if they get a go on Jimbo's yacht.
There are circumstances under which the (old, or alleged) British law that allows a true statement to be held to be libelous is legitimate.
If a true fact about a private individual is no one else's business in addition to being defamatory, it is quite reasonable for the law to punish someone for disclosing it.
It's true that since the common or dictionary definition of slander is a false accusation, and libel is thought of as slander in writing, perhaps another name for the offence, treating it as a violation of rights of privacy, distinct from the offence of spreading defamatory falsehoods about someone, would help to address the fact that this law is found to be confusing by some.
The Register seems to have some kind of a bee in its bonnet about Wikipedia. These complaints about Wikipedia being unreliable, Jim Wales having once been a pornographer, etc., have been a regular feature here for years now. We get it, you don't like Wikipedia. Perhaps the next time you report on it you could try finding something new to say?
And by the way, it's a bit rich for a publication that regularly distorts climate science in a rather desperate effort to discredit it to accuse another publication (of a kind) of unreliability. At least on Wikipedia, distortions of the sort Lewis Page engages in have a short half-life.
A bit of advice: stick to technology reporting, and try to keep your personal biases under control a bit better.
Nice job Andrew, it's impossible that Wales could have a point because, er, you don't like Wikipedia.
I guess all those people pointing out the misuse of the UK's libel system that led to the term "libel tourism" being coined must've just been wrong. After all, it couldn't possibly be that you've put grinding your anti-Wikipedia axe ahead of examining whether Wales has a point, could it?
Come on, raise your standards. I know everyone's distracted with that sports meet over in Stratford at the minute, but that's no excuse for turning in a half-hearted effort like this :P
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