The court of Rome (Italy) held that Wikipedia is not liable for defamatory contents published by its users in a case involving contents published on Wikipedia regarding an Italian lawyer and former politician Mr. Cesare Previti which according to the latter were defamatory. Only Wikipedia users themselves could be deemed responsible for the published contents.
According to Mr. Previti, Wikipedia had to be liable for the defamatory contents about him published by Wikipedia’s users since without Wikipedia the publication itself would have not occurred and therefore Wikipedia created the conditions for the occurrence of the unlawful conduct providing to the author of the contents a place through which it could be spread so making such contents defamatory.
The court disagreed and held that Wikipedia is not a content provider but a mere hosting provider for the purposes of the EU E-Commerce Directive and as such it can enjoy the liability exemption prescribed by the Directive for such type of entities i.e. the provision of a place where contents may be published by users does not trigger per se either a liability for such contents or a monitoring obligation. Furthermore, the fact that on Wikipedia platform each user can identify contents that are potentially inaccurate, report and modify them waives Wikipedia from any obligation to guarantee the accuracy of the published contents. As a consequence, since Wikipedia is a hosting provider and because each user can freely report and amend the published contents, Wikipedia is not liable for the conduct of its users. On the contrary, Wikipedia users are liable for their comments and contributions to the platform.
This is an interesting decision that seems to confirm the principles set forth in the E-Commerce Directive on the lack of monitoring obligation and the liability exemption for hosting providers. But it is even more interesting as it comes after the recent decision of the Court of Varese (Italy) where a blogger had been found liable for its user’s defamatory comments and the decision of the Court of Rome (Italy) on the liability for contents published on a Facebook page.
We shall therefore monitor the future developments of Italian case law, but in the meantime feel free to contact me, Giulio Coraggio (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you want to discuss.