(1) Italian politicians Antonio Angelucci and his son claimed that Wikipedia pages related to the Angeluccis contained false statements supposedly harming the family’s reputation. The allegedly defamatory statements referred to bribery scandals involving the Angeluccis. Although, upon notice of Angelucci’s claim, Wikimedia removed the allegedly defamatory information, the Angeluccis sought €20,000,000 in damages from the Wikimedia Foundation. The plaintiffs argued that Wikimedia should be treated like a content provider, rather than hosting, and should be liable under the stricter standard that apply to the Italian press as an online journal.
(2) The Court of Rome rejected plaintiffs' argument and stated that Wikimedia Foundation serves as a hosting provider in managing the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Therefore, the liability standards applying to the Italian press cannot be extended to Wikimedia, as “unlike the case of press publication, there is no contractual relationship between the author of the allegedly infringing content and the hosting provider; and casting liability upon this conduct, coupled with the enormous amount of data uploaded by users, would imply a form of objective liability that cannot find justification in the present Italian legal framework.”
(3) In coming down to this conclusion, the Roman Court noted that, while the Directive does not directly apply to the Wikimedia Foundation as a non-EU-based organization, the basic principles of the Directive apply. According to those principles, Wikipedia enjoys an exemption from liability, as a hosting provider, unless “it does not act to remove, or block access to, the infringing information, if it gets explicit notice of this information by the competent authorities.”
(4) Unlike a content provider, a hosting provider does not have any obligation to monitor the content published by its users to prevent defamation of a third party. The court stated that Wikipedia “offers a service which is based on the freedom of the users to draft the various pages of the encyclopedia; it is such freedom that excludes any obligation to guarantee the absence of offensive content on its sites and which finds its balance in the possibility for anybody to modify contents and ask for their removal.”
(5) The court also excluded any form of liability of Wikipedia for carrying out a “dangerous activity.” Theoretically, Article 2050 of the Italian Civil Code would provide a legal basis for this type of liability. As the Court noted, this liability may follow from the “danger of uncontrolled, immediate and pervasive circulation of news that the online platform managed by Wikimedia may allow to an indiscriminate number of people.” However, the Court went on to state that Wikimedia was very clear in its disclaimers about its neutral role in the creation and maintenance of content. This disclaimer about the truthfulness of any statements included in Wikipedia would “exclude any involvement of the hosting provider in the defamation.” see also CIS Blog post.
Topic, claim, or defense
Defamation or Personality Rights
Lowest Domestic Court
Type of service provider
Host (Including Social Networks)
OSP obligation considered
Block or Remove
Monitor or Filter
Type of law
General intermediary liability model
Takedown/Act Upon Knowledge (Includes Notice and Takedown)