Wikimedia Portugal was cleared in court

After some news reports on the Portuguese television station SIC, Wikipedia editors updated the article on César do Paço (in Portuguese) with the information contained in those reports.

César do Paço’s lawyer, Rui Barreira, tried, unsuccessfully, to remove that information [1]. This was then also reported on the media [2], and again, editors added that information to the article.

The lawyer then contacted the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) via email, with a copy being sent to the Wikimedia Portugal chapter (WMPT) email on the 25th January 2021.

WMPT is an independent not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, maintained by volunteers committed to promoting free and universal knowledge, and yet has no responsibility over the content of Wikipedia. This fact is indeed consecrated in the Chapter Agreement signed between WMPT and WMF (article 5), where WMPT is recognized as part of the Wikimedia Movement.

Since WMF was informed of the matter, WMPT did not reply to the lawyer, and we were not worried since we had nothing to do with the matter. Nevertheless, on 28 January 2021, it came to our knowledge that the two founding members of WMPT (one of which is not even a member of the association anymore) received in their personal emails a message from the same attorney indicating that they would be sued if the César do Paço pages on the Portuguese and English Wikipedia were not removed within 48 hours.

WMPT was then notified on 26 February 2021 that a “providência cautelar” (protective order) had been instated, where it was claimed that WMPT was the legal representative of WMF in Portugal, to remove the said pages from Wikipedia, and for the chapter to be fined 2000€ per day that the pages remained on the air. As a non-profit, run entirely by volunteers, and not having a revenue source to cover anything close to those values, we began to worry a little.

WMPT is not in fact legal representatives of WMF in Portugal, as we already said above, and even if we wanted to remove the content, we would not have the technical ability to do so, without seriously violating the community mechanisms in place, that had already discussed and decided to maintain the content [4].

Therefore we asked our own lawyer, Eduardo Santos, specialized in digital rights and the president of D3, a digital rights advocate NGO, to oppose that order explaining the relationship between Wikipedia, WMF and WMPT, making clear that WMPT does not have any control over the content of Wikipedia, nor does it represent any entity be it WMF, nor the editing community, nor does it know the identity of Wikipedia editors.

We also kept in contact with the WMF’s legal department, which helpfully informed us that we were able to apply to WMF’s legal fees assistance program, which, after the team reviewed the case, would provide supplemental funding for us to be able to pay any legal fees we incurred from the situation, and for our lawyer to bill WMF directly. As we had to pay some legal fees within a very short time period, we were able to get a reimbursement for those fees. This eased our concerns considerably.

On the 14 April 2021, we received indication from the judge from the Judicial Court of the Braga District, Guimarães Civil Local Court – Judge 4, that WMPT had been acquitted from any responsibility on the matter.