Photo by Rafael Defavari, CC BY-SA 4.0.

We are pleased to announce that the Brazilian Court of Appeals for the state of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil’s second highest court tier) recently ruled in favor of the Wikimedia Foundation in the lawsuit brought by Brazilian musician Rosana Fiengo (also known as Rosanah Fienngo).

In a previous blog post, we announced that the 6th Civil Court of Jacarepaguá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ruled in favor of the Wikimedia Foundation in Ms. Fiengo’s lawsuit. Ms. Fiengo went to court to dispute facts in a Portuguese Wikipedia article detailing her career. She claimed that the article’s facts constituted an invasion of her privacy. Wikipedia volunteers had included facts supported by citations that pointed towards interviews that Ms. Fiengo had given to the media in the past.

The Civil Court ruled that using information Ms. Fiengo had previously and personally divulged to the media could not now be considered an invasion of privacy. Ms. Fiengo and her legal representatives decided to continue fighting the case, but the Brazilian Court of Appeals for the state of Rio de Janeiro has now affirmed the lower court’s decision.

The Appellate Court’s decision sought to balance the right to privacy with the freedom of expression, deciding here that any restrictions on the former set of rights did not outweigh the benefits of preserving the right to free expression. According to the Appellate Court, biography is a form of history, and censoring facts about history is an unpalatable restriction on the freedom of expression. Additionally, the right to privacy for any particular person may vary — it may be more significant or less significant depending on the actions and career choices of the person in question. The courts have established that the public may have a protectable interest in learning about certain personal facts of well-known artists, and those facts in turn may inspire members of the public to read and write about those individuals. As illustrated by this decision, the Brazilian courts weigh the rights of the public to access such information when they balance those rights against individual celebrities’ rights to privacy.

The Appellate Court found in favor of Wikimedia based on the importance of the public’s right to access information about public figures.  On the additional claim of sharing false information, the Court pointed to footnotes in the original article which acknowledged that some of the information was contested, and the Court went as far as to say that Wikimedia would not be liable and only be responsible for taking down content if the content was found to be false and defamatory.

The Brazilian courts thus have upheld the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission by protecting access to information and the free sharing of knowledge. Wikimedia will continue to assert the rights of its community as cases such as this one arise.

Jacob Rogers, Legal Counsel
Wikimedia Foundation

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Tania Liberman, Eloy Rizzo, Daniel Shingai and André Muriel from KLA – Koury Lopes Advogados for their excellent representation in this matter. We would also like to extend special thanks to legal fellow Alex Shahrestani for his assistance in preparing this blog post.