Technology | Fri Nov 2, 2007 4:25pm GMT

Wikipedia cleared in French defamation case

PARIS (Reuters) - A French judge has dismissed a defamation and privacy case against Wikipedia after ruling the free online encyclopedia was not responsible for information introduced onto its Web site.

The U.S.-based Wikipedia Foundation, which is behind the popular compendium, was sued by three French nationals over a Wikipedia article that said they were gay activists.

Judge Emmanuel Binoche ruled that a 2004 French law limited Wikipedia's liability and noted that contentious references in the disputed article had in any case been removed.

"Web site hosts cannot be liable under civil law because of information stored on them if they do not in fact know of their illicit nature," Binoche said in his written ruling released at the Paris civil law court earlier this week.

Moreover, Web site hosts are not legally bound to monitor or investigate the origin of the information they store, he added.

Binoche did not rule on the whether the information contained in the article was defamatory and dismissed the plaintiffs' claim for damages.

A legal expert quoted by the Le Monde daily on Friday said it was the first legal case in Europe against Wikipedia, which was founded in 2001.

The community-written encyclopedia provides more than 8 million encyclopedia entries in 250 languages, including 2 million in English. It is produced by volunteers and anyone with Internet access can offer new entries or edit existing ones.