[Citizendium-l] Publisher vs. Service Provider (was Re: Introduction from David Marshall)

Fred Bauder fredbaud at ctelco.net
Fri Oct 20 14:23:12 EDT 2006

On Oct 20, 2006, at 5:47 AM, Peter Hitchmough wrote:

> These are very real issues.
> 1) The legal status of the enterprise:
> If we as individuals sign up to Citizendium and we publish content  
> we will have serious responsibilities. These are obviously joint  
> but could apply to each of us severally. Who here would withstand a  
> (lengthy) court case?
> 2) The principles of the enterprise:
> I am concerned that this legal division between publisher and  
> service provider will compromise the principles and aspirations of  
> Citizendium.
> a) Wikipedia can claim to be a service provider that collates many  
> individuals' writing and makes it available for public consumption.  
> Beyond applying simple (if only) rules of conduct they have to do  
> very little to manage legal risk.
> b) If Citizendium as an entity intends to shape and control content  
> then it could be argued that it is the publisher. I argue that  
> Citizendium should invite some authors, i.e. editors, only to  
> select and adjust the incoming material: that material still comes  
> from external individuals who choose to use the delivery service  
> provided by Citizendium.
> Of course, I Am Not A Lawyer, but I would like to see this issue  
> cleared up now before we get too far.
> -- Peter Hitchmough

The general theme is that the more editorial control you exercise,  
the more you look like a publisher. However to the person who is the  
subject of an article, it is quite obviously the site that is  
responsible. So they call and email and you try to make policies like  
[[Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons]] which might, if followed,  
deal with the situation. When a staff person enforces the policy it  
looks like they are editing, playing a supervisory role. A major  
consideration is not only to win should an action be brought, but to  
avoid litigation. This involves being as courteous and responsive to  
those who complain as possible. One aspect is to take seriously the  
edits and complaints which a subject enters on their talk page,  
another is to educate editors and administrators about these  
concerns. One common misunderstanding is that if the raft of negative  
information they have dug up is sourced, then it is Ok to have an  
article which contains only that negative information. The problem,  
especially with subject who are not particularly famous, is that the  
article may stay in that shape for years and be the No. 1 Google hit  
regarding the subject.

Fred Bauder

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