Wikimedia Nederland wint kort geding Sijthoff/en
PRESS STATEMENT: Wikimedia Nederland wins preliminary injunction Sijthoff
Utrecht, december 10th 2008
Vereniging Wikimedia Nederland and the stichting of the same name have won a preliminary injunction that was taken against them by entrepreneur Bob Sijthoff. Mr. Sijthoff had complaints about his article that is available on the Dutch Wikipedia. He demanded the personal data of one of the authors of his article, removal of his article and that the address www.wikipedia.nl would be closed.
Wikimedia Nederland was on the position that they were not the correct defendant, because the legal responsibility for the encyclopedia Wikipedia lies with the Wikimedia Foundation in the United States. The judge has followed their position and decided in favor of Wikimedia Nederland. Wikimedia was defended by lawyers Mr. Hendrik Struik from CMS Derks Star Busmann in Utrecht, together with his colleague Mr. Menno Briët.
Elly Waterman, chair of the vereniging says about the verdict: "There are clear procedures on Wikipedia for handling complaints about articles. People can e-mail the volunteers and, in an extreme case, begin a case against the Foundation, who has the legal responsibility. We are saddened that Mr. Sijthoff did not use these procedures, but went to court immediately"
The judge from the court in Utrecht motivated his verdict with these words: "Leaving aside the question whether passages in the article would be wrongful at all, the judge rules that Sijthoff, in view of the substantiated defense of the parties Wikimedia Nederland c.s., has failed to show that Wikimedia Nederland have authority over the making available and over the content of the Dutch version of Wikipedia."
A similar case happened in Germany earlier, when the German Wikimedia chapter was sued by MP Heillman, who wanted to remove references to his history with the stasi from his article. The address http://www.wikipedia.de was shortly closed, but the website was still reachable using the direct URL (http://de.wikipedia.org). Within a short period the address was reachable again because Heilmann felt sorry that the whole encyclopedia was closed. Later he offered his apologies and admitted that he made a mistake. The German Wikimedia chapter received around the five times the normal amount of donations when wikipedia.de was unreachable.
Wikimedia Nederland was founded in 2006 as a 'chapter' of the American Wikimedia Foundation. Its goal is to collect and promote free information, such as on Wikipedia. The vereniging does not have any responsibility or authority over the information and processes on Wikipedia. Its task is mainly to support the community, for example by organizing conferences and workshops, and to spread the ideals behind Wikipedia by lobbying, organizing meetups and other forms of education. An example of this is the reaction the vereniging recently gave on the Greenbook 'Copyright in the knowledge economy' from the European Commission, in which they show the positive sides of free licenses. Another example is the website http://www.wikiportret.nl, where famous people can upload their portrait in an easy way under a free license.
The whole verdict can be read here (in Dutch) http://www.rechtspraak.nl:
The two most relevant excerpts are reproduced here (in the translation from our lawyer Hendrik Struik):
4.5 Leaving aside the question whether passages in the article would be wrongful at all, the judge rules that Sijthoff, in view of the substantiated defense of the parties Wikimedia Nederland c.s., has failed to show that Wikimedia Nederland have authority over the making available and over the content of the Dutch version of Wikipedia. Not only do the bylaws of Wikimedia Nederland provide evidence to the contrary, also from the facts it cannot be concluded that Sijthoff´s position is right. Moreover, according to the judge there is no proof of an authority-structure between Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Nederland, which is in accordance with the position of Wikimedia Nederland. It follows from the above that it has not become sufficiently plausible that Wikimedia Nederland would independently be able to remove the article or to exercise influence on removal of the article by Wikimedia Foundation or another responsible party, so that this part of the claim will be dismissed.
4.6 Since Wikimedia Nederland have contested that they possess the personal details [i.e.: name and address; HS] of Jacob H and since no reasonable case has been made that Wikimedia Nederland has any influence on the Dutch version of Wikipedia in general and on the registration of moderators in particular, Sijthoff has failed to show that Wikimedia Nederland do possess the personal details of Jacob H. Therefore this part of the claims will also be dismissed.