Today we are pleased to announce a settlement in the legal proceedings between the Wikimedia Foundation and Internet Brands relating to issues stemming from the creation of Wikivoyage, our community’s newest free knowledge project. We regard this settlement as a victory for the Wikimedia movement, and a vindication of our values and beliefs.
Our community expressed a strong desire to create a new, freely shareable, non-commercial travel wiki project. In response, Internet Brands (owners of a for-profit wiki-based travel project) sued two Wikimedians visibly involved in supporting the travel wiki project. Internet Brands branded the proposed new site an “Infringing Website” and claimed that the volunteers were acting “for the benefit of the Wikimedia Foundation” to “usurp” the community of users of Internet Brands’ site and taking actions that included “deliberately misleading statements, and Trademark infringement and violation of Internet Brands’ intellectual property rights.” Internet Brands identified the “Wikimedia Foundation, members of its Board, and other members of the Foundation” as potential “co-conspirators” who were “corrupt in this scheme”.
Unintimidated, the Foundation moved in to defend our volunteers and to protect our community’s right to an open and meaningful discussion about the project.
We contacted one of the most respected law firms working in this field, Cooley LLP, and asked that they represent and defend the two volunteers facing legal action from Internet Brands. Cooley was engaged, and with our financial support, the volunteers moved the case to federal court and also filed an anti-SLAPP motion against Internet Brands, alleging that their freedom to openly discuss the project was under threat. Internet Brands responded by abandoning its federal claim, essentially admitting it had no factual basis. The federal court then dismissed all of Internet Brands’ remaining claims.
Meanwhile, in September 2012 the Wikimedia Foundation filed its own lawsuit against Internet Brands seeking a declaration from the court that Internet Brands had no proper basis to block the travel wiki project.
The settlement was signed on February 14, 2013, and Internet Brands has now released the Foundation and Wikivoyage e.V. (the German not for profit who worked so hard to make the project a success) from any and all claims related in any manner to the creation and operation of the travel wiki project. In return, the Foundation will dismiss the suit.
Wikivoyage is now officially launched and growing, with about 9000 new entries added in the first month, and new language versions in Polish, Romanian, Finnish, Hungarian, Chinese and Japanese being opened.
The Wikimedia Foundation believes there is enough room for multiple travel sites to co-exist, and for community members to contribute to multiple sites in this area. Our Executive Director, Sue Gardner, outlined this perspective in a post to the original travel project discussion. We have stood by this belief from the beginning, and we believe that a successful, freely-shareable, non-commercial travel project will help support the overall quantity and quality of travel information on the web.
We thank and recognize our global community of volunteers, particularly the pioneers of the Wikivoyage project for their dedication and focus in making the project possible. I want to thank my colleagues at the Foundation in many different departments for their hard work on this case. We are also grateful to our friends at Cooley LLP for their continuous support, tireless dedication, and outstanding legal counsel through these challenges.
It’s now possible for the Wikivoyage community to continue their efforts to build a global free-knowledge travel site unhindered. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to working closely with the Wikivoyage community as the project grows and thrives.
Geoff Brigham, General Counsel