High Court of First Instance of Paris, Summary Order, 29 October 2007, Mrs M.B., Mr P.T. and Mr F.D. v Wikimedia Foundation Inc.
Three Frenchmen, who were quoted in the WIKIPEDIA website as being gay, brought action before the President of the High Court of First Instance of Paris, competent for urgent matters. They claimed damages on the grounds of violation of their privacy and defamation.
The Wikimedia Foundation argued that it is not subject to a general obligation to monitor the contents on its site, that it did not have actual knowledge of the litigious words, and that the plaintiffs did not notify the presence of the contents in compliance with the formalities provided for in the French Act of 21 June 2004 on Confidence in the Digital Environment (which implements the EC Directive 2000/31/EC of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services). The litigious content was removed from the website before the hearings.
In its summary order dated 29 October 2007, the President ruled that the provisions of Article 6-I-2 Act on Confidence in the Digital Environment provide that hosting providers are not liable for the information stored, on condition that the providers did not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information. Moreover, the President held that the provisions of Article 6.I.7 of the same Act do not provide for a general obligation to monitor information on their site, nor an obligation to actively seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activities.
Furthermore, the President ruled that the plaintiffs had not given the Wikimedia Foundation notification of the litigious contents in compliance with the formalities set out in Article 6.I.5 of the Act of 21 June 2004. This article provides that service providers are deemed to have knowledge of the litigious facts if the following elements are notified:
- the date of the notification;
- the name of the person, profession, domicile, nationality, date and place of birth, or, in the case of a legal entity, its form of incorporation, name, registered office;
- the description of the litigious facts and their precise location;
- the reasons why the content must be removed, with an explanation of the legal provisions and factual justifications; and
- a copy of the correspondence sent to the author or publisher of the litigious information or facts, in which the author or publisher is asked to remove or modify the information, or failing that, justification that the author or publisher could not be contacted.
In the present case, the plaintiffs had sent an email, instead of a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. The email in question did not refer to the legal provisions needed by the recipient in order to verify whether the content was manifestly illegal.