|This page documents a Wikipedia policy with legal considerations.|
|This page in a nutshell: If you post a legal threat on Wikipedia, you are likely to be blocked indefinitely. A polite report of a legal problem, such as defamation or copyright infringement, is not a threat and will be acted on quickly.|
Do not post legal threats on Wikipedia. A legal threat, in this context, is a threat to engage in an external (real life) legal or other governmental process that would target other editors or Wikipedia itself. It does not refer to any dispute-resolution process within Wikipedia. Legal threats should be reported to Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or elsewhere to an administrator. Users who post legal threats on Wikipedia are typically blocked from editing while the threats are outstanding.
Instead of posting a legal threat, you should try to resolve disputes using Wikipedia's dispute-resolution procedures. If your issue involves Wikipedia itself, you should contact the Wikimedia Foundation.
With all that said, that a legal dispute exists between users, whether as a result of incidents on Wikipedia or elsewhere, is not a valid reason to block, so long as no legal threats are made on Wikipedia. The only concern of this policy is the posting of legal threats on Wikipedia. Editors involved in a legal dispute should not edit articles about parties to the dispute, given the potential conflict of interest.
What is not a legal threat
A complaint in cases of copyright infringement is not a legal threat. If you are the owner of copyrighted material that has been inappropriately added to Wikipedia, a clear statement about whether it is licensed for such use is welcome. You may contact the information team or the Wikimedia Foundation's designated agent, or use the procedures at Wikipedia:Copyright problems.
A discussion as to whether material is libelous is not a legal threat. Wikipedia's policy on defamation is to delete libelous material as soon as it is identified. If you believe that you are the subject of a libelous statement on Wikipedia, please contact the information team at info-en-qwikipedia.org.
Conflict of interest
Perceived legal threats
Refrain from making comments that others may understand as a legal threat. For example, if you repeatedly assert that another editor's comments are "defamatory" or "libelous", that editor might interpret this as a threat to sue. To avoid misunderstandings, use less charged wording, such as "that statement about me is false and damaging, and I ask that it be corrected."
Wikipedia is not the place for legal disputes. Posting legal threats on Wikipedia is uncivil and can cause serious problems:
- It severely inhibits free editing of pages, which is necessary to ensure neutrality. Without this freedom, we risk one side of a dispute intimidating the other, thus causing a systemic bias.
- It creates bad feelings and a lack of trust, damaging the ability to proceed quickly and efficiently with an assumption of mutual good faith.
- The project has had bad experiences with users who have posted legal threats in the past.
Attempting to resolve disputes using the dispute resolution procedures will often lead to a solution without resorting to the law. If the dispute resolution procedures do not resolve your problem, and you then choose to take legal action, you do so in the knowledge that you took all reasonable steps to resolve the situation amicably.
Conclusion of legal threat
The Wikipedia community has a long-standing principle that (almost) anyone is capable of reform. Accordingly, statements made in anger or misjudgment should not be held against people once withdrawn. Blocking infringing editors helps to:
- de-escalate a bad situation,
- reduce stress and administrative burden,
- reduce disruption
- and prevent a situation in which an otherwise constructive editor posts as if they were a legal adversary.
If the issue is resolved, then the involved editor(s) should be unblocked if there are no other issues that warrant a block.
The aim is to prevent legal threats being posted on Wikipedia, not to keep bad content from being fixed. Admins should encourage an aggrieved user to identify errors in the article at issue; a link to Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Factual error (from subject) may be appropriate.
A user threatening a legal action on their talk page have limited scope for disruption. The user should not be prevented from using their talk page until reasonable attempts have been made to open a civil discussion. We assume good faith while containing disruption, but the assumption of good faith is not a suicide pact; persistent or vexatious complaints may lead to the user being banned and prevented from editing their talk page.