Raue LLP Enforces Fine Against Wikipedia

Raue LLP has enforced a fine against the Wikimedia Foundation in a landmark legal procedure on a violation of personality rights. According to the decision of the Berlin Regional Court of 11 December 2018 (Case No. 27 O 12/17), the Wikimedia Foundation violates a court order to cease and desist if a legally infringing passage is deleted but remains available in the so-called “version history” of a Wikipedia entry. In addition to the deletion of the infringing passage, the Wikimedia Foundation must carry out a so-called “version deletion” , in which the infringing statements completely disappear . The failure to completely delete the data was a gross fault of the Wikimedia Foundation, according to the Berlin Regional Court.

The subject of the legal dispute, in which Raue represented the internationally renowned language researcher Prof. Alexander Waibel, was the German-language Wikipedia entry about him. Prof. Waibel is Professor of Computer Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (CSCE) in Germany and at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, USA. He is also Director of the International Center for Advanced Communication Technologies (InterACT) at both universities. His research interests include speech recognition, language processing and language translation.

The entry in the online encyclopedia “Wikipedia” – according to the operator Wikimedia Foundation the largest encyclopedia in the world – contained the incorrect claim that Prof. Waibel had researched on behalf of American secret services, in particular for the American government program Total Information Awareness. Prof. Waibel has repeatedly publicly opposed these false allegations, which were broadcast for the first time in the ARD programme FAKT. Nevertheless, the Wikimedia Foundation initially refused to remove the false factual claims from the Wikipedia entry. After a legally binding judgement of the Berlin Regional Court of 28 August 2018 (Case No. 27 O 12/17) to cease the dissemination of the infringing statements, the Wikimedia Foundation deleted the entry, but left the statements unchanged in the so-called “version history”. The Berlin Regional Court has now made it clear that this practice is illegal.

(20 December 2018)