[Air-l] wikipedia and defamation

Dan L Burk burkx006 at umn.edu
Tue Dec 6 21:39:54 PST 2005

Two versions of this theory were bandied about nearly 10 years ago.

One version involved some brief speculation as to whether defamation via
CMC is more like slander (spoken defamation) than like libel (written
defamation).  The rules for slander differ slightly, as spoken defamation
is less permanent.

A second variation suggested that the U.S. NYT v. Sullivan "public figure"
standard applies to everyone on-line; i.e., that cheap access to CMC gives
everyone access to mass media, making everyone a public figure.  In that
case, counter-speech would be the preferred remedy.  Some of the
proprietary ISPs (AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy) adopted this as their internal
policy for a time: if you felt you had been defamed on their systems, you
got free access to rebut the defamation.

Neither of these ideas went anywhere, and CMC defamation nowadays gets
(mostly) treated like print defamation.  DLB

On 5 Dec 2005, Judd Antin wrote:
> An interesting side note: the distinction between 'transient' and 
> 'fixed' communication or media appears to underlay the legal notion of 
> defamation. Wikipedia doesn't fit cleanly into either of those 
> categories. Should a work that is universally and indefinitely editable 
> be subject to the same requirements as traditional slander and libel? It 
> could certainly have an effect on an individual's reputation, but at the 
> same time that individual (or any other) is empowered to immediately 
> remove the offending passage.
> --Judd
> --Judd Antin
> School of Information Management & Systems (SIMS)
> University of California Berkeley
> jantin at sims.berkeley.edu
> http://technotaste.com
> blog: http://technotaste.com/blog

Dan L. Burk
Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly Professor
University of Minnesota Law School
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455 USA
Voice: 612-626-8726
Fax: 612-625-2011
bits: burkx006 at umn.edu

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