Did You Know? Data Center Location Can Influence Content Copyright Laws
January 26, 2011
Earlier this month, Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia known the world
over for its user-generated and edited content, celebrated its tenth year in
existence. To mark the milestone, Wikipedia’s primary founder, Jimmy Wales, hit
the talk show circuit to shed light on some myths and obscure facts surrounding
the popular site’s structure and operational procedures.
Of particular interest to those who follow data center trends and tidbits,
Wales pointed out that while Wikipedia’s first dedicated set of data-storing
servers were housed in San Diego, California, once Wikipedia’s model of
user-generated, volunteer-moderated online content began to grow (more than 17
million articles in over 270 languages to date), the server farms, and the
content they stored, were moved to Tampa, Florida in 2004.
Besides the all-too obvious and ordinary reasons a company might relocate
(need more space at a cheaper cost, etc.), Wikipedia’s trek south reveals a
simple, yet perhaps little-known nugget of location-based minutia – the rules
and laws governing hosted content depend upon the state in which that content
physically resides – in this case, the entire Wikipedia database, every last
article on everything from political figures of post-colonial America to plot
holes in The Matrix, exists under Florida state jurisdiction, most
notably, Florida copyright law.
On its own self-published Wikipedia page, the editing model of the site
“Content in Wikipedia is subject to the laws (in particular copyright law)
in Florida, United States, where Wikipedia servers are hosted, and several
editorial policies and guidelines that are intended to reinforce the notion that
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Each entry in Wikipedia must be a topic that is
encyclopedic and thus is worthy of inclusion.”
Whether or not every single article hosted on Wikipedia’s servers is
justifiably ‘worthy of inclusion’ is certainly up for debate (looking at you,
"Pogs"), but the
fact of the matter remains – companies storing and hosting content can be
required to adhere to the copyright laws where that content resides.
Granted, such a topic only affects a certain segment of businesses and
industries. For the IT industry at large, the trials and tribulations of
selecting a data center site understandably revolve around considerations like
cost-effective thermal cooling, power usage and efficiency. Yet as IT evolves,
and umbrella topics like cloud computing compete for editorial space, the debate
over intellectual property, content ownership and physical site storage will
persist. Where to now?