Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-11-17/Wikimedia Deutschland case

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Lawsuit briefly shuts down Wikipedia.de

By Ral315, 17 November 2008

German politician Lutz Heilmann requested and was briefly granted a court order blocking the redirection of "wikipedia.de" to "de.wikipedia.org", before negative press attention led to the injunction's retraction, upon Mr. Heilmann's request.

The restriction, which prevented Wikimedia Deutschland from linking to "de.wikipedia.org" through their website and search engine at "wikipedia.de", apparently went into place sometime on Friday, November 14, upon the reception of a preliminary injunction in the case. The injunction was issued the day before, upon a request by Heilmann at the Landgericht Lübeck, a German intermediate court. In place of the usual page, readers were instead shown a notice explaining the situation. The message, as translated to English by AxelBoldt, reads:

With temporary injunction from the Landgericht Lübeck of 13 November 2008, obtained by Lutz Heilmann (Member of Parliament for the party Die Linke), Wikimedia Germany is prohibited from "directing the internet address wikipedia.de to the internet address de.wikipedia.org" as long as "de.wikipedia.org contains" certain statements about Lutz Heilmann. Until further notice the service of wikipedia.de in its current form thus has to be terminated. Wikimedia Germany will appeal the decision.

Wikimedia Germany is not the provider of the "Wikipedia" made available under de.wikipedia.org and has no influence on the contents of the online encyclopedia. Rather, Wikimedia Germany is a non-profit charity (Eingetragener Verein) for the advancement of free knowledge which merely informs about the application of Wikipedia. As is explained on the site, the provider of Wikipedia is the Wikimedia Foundation, a foundation incorporated in Florida, U.S. and located in San Francisco.

If you want to help us, you can donate. More information can be found under http://spenden.wikimedia.de/. Thank you very much for your support!

We thank the attorney's office of JBB Rechtsanwälte for their prompt and competent help.

The exact issues that Mr. Heilmann objected to were not widely reported, due to concerns that republishing the material might make media sources the target of a similar lawsuit. Thorsten Feldmann, a lawyer for Wikimedia Deutschland, told Spiegel Online that four claims make up most of the suit's issues. According to Focus Online, some of the claims objected to by Heilmann included a claim that he had not received his university degree, and that he had been involved in a business venture involving pornography. Other purported sources of dispute include the mention of Heilmann's five-year employment with the Stasi (the East German secret police), a fact that he admitted to concealing until 2005, and reports made by German newspapers in October and reported in his article, claiming that he was under investigation for having threatened a former roommate.

The suit received press attention from various German sources, including The Local, Der Spiegel, and Focus Online, and public response was apparently very negative, leading to a request by Heilmann to withdraw the injunction. Upon the formal end of legal proceedings on Monday, the site was restored. However, while Heilmann withdrew the injunction and the lawsuit against Wikimedia Deutschland, a lawsuit is apparently still ongoing against the Wikipedia contributor responsible for some or all of the offending material.

The temporary shutdown draws comparisons to a previous case, involving Tron (Boris Floricic). Floricic's parents filed a lawsuit in late 2005, and received a preliminary injunction that blocked the redirect from January 17 through February 9, 2006, when the injunction was removed. The complaint was rejected in appeal in May 2006 (see archived story).

One interesting aspect of the suit is a significant increase in donations to the German chapter. In the week before the case, with the fundraiser ongoing, donations averaged about 3,450 per day. In the three days that the redirect was active, the chapter received over €42,800, more than four times its fundraiser average. Many of the donors who left comments referenced the controversy. For comparison, in the first ten months of 2008, the chapter received less than €27,000 in online donations.



Also this week:

Wikimedia Deutschland case — GFDL 1.3 — Wikimedia events — News and notes — Features and admins — Technology report — Arbitration report


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