Submissions/Wikimedia and the Law

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom
Submission no. 2531
Title of the submission

Wikimedia and the Law

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)

Flexible. I could do it as an introductory talk followed by interactive discussion, or I'd be glad to do it as a panel working with other people attending the conference who have a legal background.

Author of the submission

Ira Brad Matetsky (User:Newyorkbrad)

E-mail address



Country of origin

United States

Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

I'm a member of the Board of the New York Chapter and am on the En-WP Arbcom, but I wouldn't be presenting in either of those capacities.

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Wikipedia tries to avoid legal entanglements for its editors and readers, such as by creating an enforcing the "no legal threats" policy, but plenty of legal issues still arise from time to time. The law and its application to a particular set of facts can be complex, and the complexity is magnified by the need to apply bodies of law in new technological contexts as well as by the project's worldwide scope. However, there are a few groups of legal issues that arise with frequency. The fundamental principles applying to these can be presented and discussed in a fashion accessible to all interested participants—including lawyers, law students, non-lawyer Wikimedia editors, and members of the general public.

As a starting point for this type of discussion, I've created on-wiki the page "Final Exam for Wikilawyers". The "exam problems" on the page are drawn from real issues that have arisen in the history of the project involving five types of interaction between Wikipedia and the law, including: The relationship between Wikipedia and its article subject; Copyright and conflict of laws problems (where different jurisdictions have different rules); Our editors' ability to keep their identities confidential, versus other people's ability to publish them; The pros and cons of actual courts' citing Wikipedia articles in their decisions (an increasing trend); and The parallels that do and don't (or should and shouldn't) exist between on-wiki dispute resolution and "real world" law.

Participants may wish to read this page and think about the issues raised on it before the conference session.

Where relevant, comparisons will be drawn between the law of the United States and that of other jurisdictions. My expertise is primarily in U.S. law, and input from people knowledgeable about how these problems are handled in other legal systems would be very welcome. We can also discuss what the law should be as well as what it is, or how the law might evolve in the future. Time will be left for questions and discussions, but no legal advice on any matter under the law of any jurisdiction can be provided.


Legal and Free Culture is the obvious answer, but ideally the program would draw attention from people on the Community track and not only the Legal track.

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes

30 minutes or as desired. I could certainly fill an hour if people wanted me to.

Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)

Nothing major. Probably some handouts.

Special requests

None at this time, thanks.

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).

  1. --Gnom (talk) 08:32, 1 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. MichaelMaggs (talk) 15:17, 6 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Ocaasi (talk) 23:20, 6 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
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