Submissions:2014/Wikipedia and the Law

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Title of the submission

Wikipedia and the Law

Themes (Proposal Themes - Community, Tech, Outreach, GLAM, Education)

Community, professional relations

Type of submission (Presentation Types - Panel, Workshop, Presentation, etc)

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

E-mail address



US state or country of origin

New York

Affiliation, if any (organization, 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, and 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.

Length of presentation/talk (see Presentation Types for lengths of different presentation types)

The 75-minute default time is fine, but I'm flexible as to both length and format. As anyone reading this who knows me is aware, I'm perfectly capable of discoursing on this subject for 75 or more minutes. However, I'm also prepared to do this as a panel discussion, and I'd like to spend some time discussing the example problems.

Will you attend WikiConference USA if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)

Nothing fancy. Some handouts.

Special request as to time of presentations

I may not be available on Saturday afternoon between about 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. because of a potential scheduling conflict. I'll know within the next two weeks whether this is an issue, but it should be easy enough to work around.

Please note that I've made two submissions. I'd be glad to do either, or both, depending on the needs and interests of the conference.

Interested attendees

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