May 30, 2006

Apple v. Does (O'Grady v. Superior Court) and Wikipedia

The Apple v. Does (O'Grady v. Superior Court) case, where Apple tried to subpoena online publisher's information for an investigation, has been well-analyzed (big win for EFF). I'm going to skip the (somewhat misconstrued) Bloggers vs. Journalists! aspects, because they've been chewed to death, and focus on a synthesizing post about the Wikipedia elements, to highlight some other factors.

In "New Age judge blasts Apple", Andrew Orlowski states:

However Apple has struck gold in finding a techno utopian in a state of rapture. Judge Rushing cites Wikipedia as a source, a mistake which earns students an 'F' grade today. He talks about the need to disregard economics and sociology in favor of a "memetic marketplace" - whatever that is - and allows himself some flights of technological rapture.

[N.b. - I think "memetic marketplace" was the judge's way of being hip, where a more staid judge would have used the traditional phrase "marketplace of ideas"]

Actually, I suspect the problem was recognized, and Joe Gratz analyzed it in Apple v. Does Court Cites Wikipedia:

In 2003, I opined that citation to Wikipedia in the course of a legal argument was asking for trouble, since anyone - even opposing counsel - could pull the factual rug out from under one's argument.

The California Court of Appeal, though, dodges the problems I foresaw. It cites Wikipedia almost exclusively for the definitions of internet argot and geek pop culture references: ...

These articles are particularly likely to have reached an accurate and complete equilibrium, since the core Wikipedia constituency is deeply familiar with their subject matter, and that subject matter is not hotly contested. While one can imagine a flame war emerging over precisely what is or isn't a BBS or a blog, the opinion cites Wikipedia in the same situations I do - when the reader's general knowledge of the subject matter will assist understanding of the argument, but the underlying details aren't dispositive of the argument's merit.

In other words, citing a geek trivia collection to define popular geeky terms, is probably not dangerous.

And, besides taking apart some of the Bloggers vs. Journalists! hype, in Courting Wikipedia, Citing Wikipedia, Jon Garfunkel reveals:

In an earlier footnote, Judge Rushing defended his use of Wikipedia: "As with many of the concepts in this opinion, the most authoritative and current sources of information may themselves be found on the web." Of course, "on the web" is as precise as saying "in printed materials." The difference is that information printed materials generally can be traced. With the web, it's a bit trickier. One searches the Bear Flag League, and find out that they're a group of conservative California bloggers, and then search more to find out that the founder was Justene Adamec. As for who came up with "we blog," that is Peter Merholz, who explains such here. As for the quote in bold, it's a meaty passage out of Wikipedia. In this case, it's practically impossible to find out who had authored it, unless the author steps forward.

It was me. And I'm absolutely delighted.

Maybe this what they mean by anyone can contribute :-).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , legal | on May 30, 2006 03:38 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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