QUOTE(Jonny Cache @ Wed 16th May 2007, 12:36pm)
IANAB, but it seems to me that IRC chat falls under the category of "things overhead in a bar". I mean, it probably wouldn't matter much to the average J&J how loudly you proclaim somebody an ass in the heave-ho of a barfite, nobody's gonna consider that a serious libel.
Has a United States court ever found "against" anyone for what amounts to talking shit in a chat room or IRC?
Posting stuff in a semi-permanent or permanent form is one thing, in cases (websites, print media, etc.). But IRC/AIM chats, etc., are transitory by nature and there is no established republishing method. I don't think (but IANAL) that you can get in serious legal trouble for being even ultra-nasty about someone, especially if you can't be tied by any records to your in-real-life identity. Given that Freenode IP information is supposedly gone in less than a month, and Wikipedia also only keeps such records for 4-6 weeks at most, and compiled with the fact that even if you did catch someone saying something...
It's not happening.
Add in the theoretical fact that if someone wanted to go after someone from another country--lets say, for argument's sake, Brandt and SlimVirgin--there's other problems.
Subpoena Freenode. Subpoena Wikipedia. You need to get judges in two jurisdictions to authorize this (I forget where Freenode is based out of it, but I don't think it was Florida). OK, you have t-minus 4-6 weeks from the 'defamation' to get those records (assuming they exist). Next, you have to proove that SlimVirgin on IRC is SlimVirgin on Wikipedia, to tie their identities together. Assuming you pull this off before the records expire off the system, you have an IP saying Slim was in both places. For argument's sake, let's say it's a Shaw IP, the big Canadian IP. Then what? You need to get Shaw to give up whose IP that is. If they don't/won't, get thee to the Canadian court. And that's assuming that THEY (Shaw) keep the records indefinitely. You're probably into the scale of months or longer by now, for time tables. Oh, and hopefully, "Slim" wasn't connecting through like a Japanes open proxy or something. Or public wireless. Or work (another thing to track down). Then what?
Let's assume that you manage to proove that Slim on IRC is Slim on Wikipedia, and tie them all together. You've "got" Slim. You've got the Foundation. You can connect the dots after much legality, of who is who, and who enabled who, and who supplied the means for someone to utter the defaming whatever. Then what? YOU still have to demonstrate it's defamation, libel, whatever. And, you'll need to do it possibly in two jurisdictions. United States for Wikipedia and Freenode, and then Canada for Slim (or England, or Turkey, or wherever the editor in question is). And then what? You could end up out thousands of dollars in legal fees, for no rewards.
Even worse, it might just lead Freenode or WP to decide to not even keep IP records "as long" going forward. If they drop them both to a week in response to avoid future liability (a valid and quite smart legal tactic), then what?
No offense, Daniel, but I think the pursuit of the people for trivial legal stuff that isn't bulletproof, while a fine noble pursuit, isn't overly worth it. Then again, you could be independently wealthy, I don't know you--spending thousands or more in American money on something like this might be a drop in the bucket, the level of my spending $4 on a coffee here in the city. I just don't think anyone's clearly enumerated the absurdly difficult and frankly impractical uphill scale this is on. I respect your work outside of the Wikipedia stuff--it's great stuff. Your fantastic researching skills may make this stuff trivial for you to do--for all I know, you've got all the stuff you need already lined up, but are waiting on perhaps getting the article taken down. But the sheer absurd scale of what is needed to make anything come out of pursuing people talking crap about you (or me, or whomever) on the Internets is almost a borderline Quixotic ideal. Lord knows I love tilting at windmills myself, but ones that are feasible to actually hit.