Editor legal rights

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Noto Emoji Pie 1f4c4.svg (English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

I would like a couple of things to be noted about legal rights of contributors.

Naturally, the first thing I can think of about legal rights is the respect for privacy. A draft is available at Draft privacy policy.

Currently, an editor may use his real name, or log in under a pseudonyme, or not log in at all, and edit under an ip. Some people have proposed that anonymous edits be made impossible at , and I think this is infringing the right of everybody to edit Wikipedia. To my opinion, this would threaten the right of a user to preserve his own privacy.

Aside from the "desire" someone has to preserve his privacy, there have been a few cases now, where a bad user has had private information about him publicly released. It was the case recently on the french Wikipedia with our user Papotages. This guy is now full driven vandal of the most basic kind, but during a few months, though a difficult editor, he was no vandal, he was merely problematic. Even if he is now doing stupid bot edits, he threatens no one directly. I doubt very much his comments, though bad, could lead to a legal case.
However, while banning discussions were still going on, his name was publicly revealed on the french mailing list. And someone indicated he had his phone number and felt ready to call his employer. Is this something we want to do ? Are we trying to protect wikipedia from bad-for-wikipedia people, or is it our job to decide who is bad and who should be punished in his real life ? I am convinced of the first. Definitly not of the last. Even if we are attacked in real life, in our real body, it is the cops and the justice job to decide what to do. Not us.
Papotages is involved in a sect, and is now accusing us to censor him, to censor freedom of speech. He is messing our RCs. I find this unfair, but I find equally bad the idea of witch hunt.

When we guarantee privacy rights to editors (when they start editing), does that really mean we wish to guarantee *everyone* privacy, or does that mean that *only* those who accept to fit in the community will have this guarantee respected ?

If only those who accept to behave nicely within the social rules of Wikipedia are guaranteed privacy respect, it should be mentionned in the privacy policy very well. It should also be mentionned what people will be liable too, or what they have to fear as retorsion measure, or as protection measures Wikipedia could take to protect itself. If we intend to contact isp, it should be mentionned. If we intend to publicly reveal ips, isp, real names to ensure Wikipedia protection, it should be mentionned. Especially if this is on a support that can't be deleted permanently (a wikipedia page can be wiped from the database, a mail will not perhaps, and will be googled very quickly). Perhaps should we mention in which cases we would contact the cops, and mention which information will be disclosed to cops or legal officers if necessary, but not to public.

Or, on the opposite, if all users are guaranteed privacy respect, what can be done to ensure privacy is respected and to eliminate permanently information that has been revealed in spite of the policy ? Such as, could we delete this mail on the french wikipedia mailing list ?

Or, if there is a mix of the two options, could we identify which privacy rights will be respected, and which ones will not, in case of abuse. Perhaps, it can be acceptable to track ips, to contact isp, but not to reveal names publicly (except to cops and legals of course).

All I think is important is to protect Wikipedia itself first, and only to take actions that are legals and acceptable within our privacy statement to insure protection of Wikipedia. If a user feels personnaly threatened, then it is a legal issue, not directly a Wikipedia issue, so perhaps not Jimbo, or Wikipedia, or Wikimedia to be directly involved.


The other point comes from a comment made by someone else

below, from another editor comment (with tweaks) :

is Noted on en:User:JoeM

"This website is private property. Until the owner of it, Jimbo, allows you back in, you are tresspassing by using it."

This is one of many legal ideas some people have about Wikipedia. Let's look at it more closely:

1. "website" is an oxymoron. A bunch of text is not a place in space. This is a en:mixed metaphor that leads to wrong association of ideas about "sites" and "real estate" with ideas about webs. This confusion should be avoided - one should refer to a "web" or a "web service" and not a "site" for this reason.

2. "private property" is considered by some to be an oxymoron, but, the text that is being edited or viewed is property only in the sense defined by the GFDL - this puts certain obligations on contributors and distributors - if the obligations are ignored by either, then, the text is not necessarily owned by anyone. The only clear "property" involved is the computer itself, there are probably use of bandwidth and domain names that might be considered to be property or property-like, but, only in some jurisdictions, and not for all purposes. For instance, one cannot use one's "property rights" in domains and bandwidth to violate hate speech, libel, or other laws.

2a. Legally, if one group of people has such access and uses some technological barrier (like a locked door or 'block IP' power) to prevent another group from changing what is said about them, those with the power become "publishers" and take on serious obligations in the law. It becomes their responsibility to ensure for instance that what is said about a person or group does not violate their rights in any country on Earth. This is a rather serious obligation that most "Wikipedians" are simply not equipped to take on. Jimbo is taking formal legal responsibility for a lot of people publishing things about others, which might be reduced, if the people or groups written about were allowed to respond, but are certainly maximized, if they are forbidden from responding even on say talk pages, or not believed. What if someone wrote on en:talk:Mel Gibson "hi, I'm Mel Gibson [or his attorney], and what's said about me [my client] here is not true?" What would happen?

2b. The GFDL has very specific requirements for attribution, access to the original source text. Thus contributors who "donate" under the GFDL are deprived of exercising rights that they have under the GFDL.

end of moved comment

I was equally troubled two times about issues related to this
a year ago, a user contributed a lot on quite controversial topics on fr. Some of his contributions were left untouched, while others were edited by other editors. Then that user entered in conflict with several wikipedians, and as a result was blocked (not banned). He/she then asked that his texts be removed. He was answered too late, you gave them under gfdl, you cannot remove them anymore, you lost ownership on them, these are ours now. He then claimed that these were copyrighted texts, and requested that these be removed to respect the copyright. No proof was offered to support this claim. As far as I remember, Jimbo suggested that we removed the stuff provided by the user. We removed some and we refused to remove others, because of the other editors participation, and the story stopped there. How should we address those cases ? (for the story, that editor is now back with us, and contributing more or less noisily, but within the community rules)
last summer, a user, after a lot of contributions, also got involved in a conflict, and as a result, decided to quit wikipedia. He then announced he would take back his contributions with him. We said again no, these are now ours. This user then explained that these were personnal contributions, not touched by anyone, and that he had heavy proof he was their owner (as the articles history could prove, and as he said he could send us papers studies to prove his work was anterior to wikipedia edition). Actually, the conflict was solved, and the editor finally decided to drop the case (and is still as such the "owner" of these articles). Again, what should be done in such cases ?
I feel that the comment above is indeed wrong. Jimbo is not the owner of all what we collectively write. He owns the material (well, less and less), the bandwidth, the names, but he does not own the content. He is our spirit and foundation base, a guide and a promoter, but he does not own our creation. As I edit this place, I do not feel I edit a private property place. Am I right ? What are my rights upon what I write ? Even the author rights are stripped by the wiki process. I would like some hints. Anthere
I believe that contributors grant Wikipedia the right to use their work under the GFDL. This license is "unlimited in duration" -- once the license has been granted, it can't be revoked.
Everyone owns their own contributions, but each new revision is licensed under the GFDL. The GFDL is how we collaborate on articles.
I can see some reasons that people may ask to have their contributions removed or deleted -- such as, for example, putting up a very private image of oneself, or some personal information. And, obviously, contributions that are legally untenable.
But takedown requests just for spite aren't reasonable. Like the note says, "If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here." --Evan 22:18, 17 Dec 2003 (UTC)
A more helpful policy is to let people take their contributions away if they wish. They will be quickly replaced and it's good to make life as easy for contributors as possible, because that encourages other contributors. We have the legal right not to let them be removed but its more useful not to exercise that right. Jamesday 15:06, 26 Feb 2004 (UTC)