Wikipedia: More Than Just a Footnote for Lawsuits
Posted in: Research at 01/02/2008 03:19
by David M. Kelly and Anna C. Bonny
Since its inception in 2001, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has grown to be the largest encyclopedia ever assembled. Currently ranked among the world's top ten most-visited websites, Wikipedia boasts 6.8 million registered users and 8.29 million articles worldwide.
Wikipedia has even made its way into numerous U.S. judicial opinions. More than 100 judicial rulings have cited Wikipedia, including 13 circuit courts of appeal. Use of Wikipedia by courts, however, has not been without controversy.
Due to concerns about the ability of anonymous users to edit Wikipedia entries, some courts have questioned Wikipedia's reliability and subsequent admissibility. Two recent trademark cases, though recognizing Wikipedia's shortcomings, have distinguished these earlier cases, and considered Wikipedia entries where the non-offering party has had an opportunity to rebut the evidence.
In two early non-trademark cases concerning Wikipedia, courts questioned its reliability because anonymous users can edit its articles. Concerned by Wikipedia's disclaimers that its articles may be "unbalanced," "subject to remarkable oversights," or "liable to be incomplete," a Tennessee state court in English Mountain Spring Water Co. v. Chumley rejected Wikipedia as a reliable source altogether.
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