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A victory for Wikivoyage and free knowledge

Settlement of litigation between Internet Brands and the Wikimedia Foundation

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

39 Responses to “A victory for Wikivoyage and free knowledge”

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  1. Maverick333 says:

    well done WikiMedia!

    There is another small but very innovative company which has been sued by “Internet-Brands” using the same “Bully Tactics”:

    http://xenforo.com/community/threads/california-case-update.10037/

    Hope to see you all in supporting XenForo in this frivolous case.

  2. Dan Dascalescu says:

    It would help to mention that the competing travel wiki is Wikitravel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikitravel

  3. Wikibuster says:

    Well done Wikimedia, you have killed the paper encyclopedias, now go forward eradicate all the sites living from the travel information, then kill all photographs pro with Commons, then make disapear all authors in the world and let the correct point of view expressed in Wikipedia be the ultimate Highlander ! Heil Wikimedia we want you as our new world leaders !

  4. The Wikimedia Foundation defended me when I was threatened by people seeking to use legal coercion to control works they do not own, and they did the same again today. May this be an example for everyone.

  5. Ward Cunningham says:

    I will resist the temptation to describe any aspect of this transition in black and white terms. However, I do feel a strange desire to reach for my wallet and make one more contribution to the Wikimedia Foundation so that their resources will be available the next time they are needed.

  6. Matticusmadness says:

    A fine job performed by The WikiMedia Foundation. This is a good sign for the non-profit market and a real kick in the pants for greedies like IB. Most importantly (in my book) though is that it’s a sign for us that the non-profit market can still trump those who line the Government’s pockets. Excellent work Wikimedia, i’m proud to call myself a Wikivoyager with you guys running the show.

  7. Pete Forsyth says:

    Many thanks for the strong advocacy for WMF’s role in supporting the work of its community of volunteers, and especially for telling the story in terms we can all understand and take pride in!

  8. Todd Allen says:

    To Geoff and all involved at the WMF, thank you for taking quick action to scare off the bullies. And thank you even more for demonstrating your support of our volunteers. I hope WMF has recovered or will recover all costs from this frivolous lawsuit.

    To the volunteers involved in this, thank you as well. You knew this was a crock and were willing to stand up and fight, and even with WMF help, getting sued must be a frightening experience. Thanks for what you did.

  9. As one of the two individuals sued by Internet Brands I’m glad to FINALLY be able to publicly thank the Wikimedia Foundation for their support. Throughout the ordeal I was amazingly impressed by the professionalism, hard work, and dedication of both WMF and Cooley, and am enormously grateful that they stood up for their community members in this instance.

    Getting sued is something that no one ever wants to go through, particularly when you believe you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, but the WMF’s assistance made a very stressful ordeal much more bearable. Having seen how they operate and truly stand up for their mission of “empowering and engaging people around the world to collect and develop educational content”, I will be a lifelong supporter of this excellent organization.

  10. Daniel Bryant says:

    Brilliant advocacy. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is filled with a sense of belonging when such stories of the Foundation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with its volunteers come into the public forum. Thanks Geoff for sharing this with us all.

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