Editor’s note: On October 18, 2016, Ms. Fienngo appealed this case to the State Court of Appeals of Rio de Janeiro. The Wikimedia Foundation plans to defend the appeal.
We are happy to announce that the 6th Civil Court of Jacarepaguá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has ruled in favor of the Wikimedia Foundation in an injunction claim filed by Brazilian musician Rosanah Fienngo.
Ms. Fienngo filed a lawsuit objecting to information on her personal life in the Portuguese Wikipedia article about her. The court stated that although the information available on her Wikipedia page concerned her private life, Ms. Fienngo had already disclosed that information to the media herself, so its inclusion on Wikipedia was not an invasion of her privacy.
The Portuguese Wikipedia article about Ms. Fienngo contained information about her as a notable public figure in Brazil. This information included some details of her personal life, but this information was derived from public sources, most of which Ms. Fienngo had provided herself, such as an interview Ms. Fienngo gave to the gossip website O Fuxico.
In 2014, Ms. Fienngo filed an indemnification claim against Google Brasil and “Wikipedia,” apparently believing that Google was responsible for the content of Wikipedia. In November 2014, the Wikimedia Foundation received word that a Brazilian court had ruled against “Wikipedia” in Ms. Fienngo’s suit. The Wikimedia Foundation was not a party to this action and received no notice of the case in advance. The court order required removal of the article about Ms. Fienngo, and imposed a daily fine if the article remained intact. The article was then removed from Portuguese Wikipedia by community members.
In response, the Wikimedia Foundation argued that the article was written using information already publicly available online, including statements Ms. Fienngo had made in published interviews. Additionally, as a public figure, Ms. Fienngo has a reduced “sphere of privacy,” and celebrities do not need to approve articles written about themselves using publicly available information.
This decision confirms that the information that was in the article about Ms. Fienngo was appropriate to host on Wikipedia in both Brazil and the United States. It should be noted, though that Ms. Fienngo retains the right to appeal to the Brazilian State Court of Appeals, but we believe that the decision was strong enough that community members should feel free to make editorial decisions to write articles like the one about Ms. Fienngo, which is as of publishing time still deleted.
Overall, this decision is a positive outcome for Wikimedia. This ruling supports the ability of Wikipedians in Brazil and all around the world to create accurate and well-sourced articles, even if the information in those articles may sometimes be unflattering to the article’s subject. Those who share personal information with the media should expect that it will be available to a large number of people, and may someday appear on Wikipedia.
The Wikimedia Foundation will continue to support you, the global community, in constructing the best encyclopedia possible to aid in the dissemination of free knowledge.
Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel
We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Koury Lopes Advogados for their excellent representation in this matter, especially Tania Liberman, Eloy Rizzo, Tiago Cortez, Daniel Rodrigo Shingai, and Yasmine Maluf. We would also like to extend special thanks to legal fellow Leighanna Mixter for her assistance in preparing this blog post.