As Denise noted, the Apple v. Does opinion cites Wikipedia extensively — eleven times, by my count. In 2003, I opined that citation to Wikipedia in the course of a legal argument was asking for trouble, since anyone — even opposing counsel — could pull the factual rug out from under one’s argument.
The California Court of Appeal, though, dodges the problems I foresaw. It cites Wikipedia almost exclusively for the definitions of internet argot and geek pop culture references:
- Firewire (Slip Op. at 3 n.3)
- Breakout Box (Id.)
- GarageBand (Slip Op. at 3 n.4)
- Breakout (Slip Op. at 6 n.5)
- Asteroids (Id.)
- Arkanoid (Id.)
- Forum Moderator (Slip Op. at 26 n.16)
- BBS (Slip Op. at 27 n.16)
- Blog (Slip Op. at 45 n.21)
- Webzine (Id.)
- Electronic Paper (Slip Op. at 46 n.22)
These articles are particularly likely to have reached an accurate and complete equilibrium, since the core Wikipedia constituency is deeply familiar with their subject matter, and that subject matter is not hotly contested. While one can imagine a flame war emerging over precisely what is or isn’t a BBS or a blog, the opinion cites Wikipedia in the same situations I do — when the reader’s general knowledge of the subject matter will assist understanding of the argument, but the underlying details aren’t dispositive of the argument’s merit.
I think it’s also worth noting that the Breakout, Asteroids, and Arkanoid articles were cited in the court’s discussion of a purportedly revealing pun — the project was called “Asteroid,” and it was a “Breakout” box. The opinion rightly notes that this correlation is illusory, since it was Arkanoid, not Asteroids, that was a clone of Breakout. It just makes me proud. California: Our Appellate Clerks Are Even Geekier Than Our Tech-Rumor Bloggers.
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