On February 15, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) declared "victory" in its counter-lawsuit against Internet Brands (IB), the owner of Wikitravel and the operator of several online media, community, and e-commerce sites in vertical markets. Signpost readers will recall that IB is in turn owned by private equity investors Hellman & Friedman LLC, which bought the company in a US$640M deal. The lawsuit clears the last remaining hurdles for the WMF's new travel guide project, Wikivoyage.
In August 2012, Wikitravel contributors wished to create a new, non-commercial travel guide under the auspices of the WMF. The process began in April 2012, with significant segments of the Wikitravel contributors in support. Though the process bogged down in the following months, a request for comment on the matter gained 78% support for starting a Wikimedia-affiliated travel guide project. But IB indicated that it would not give up without a fight; there were several ominous warning signs, including the IB legal department's ultimatum to eight Wikitravel volunteer editors: "Please be advised that your recent actions communicating directly with members of Wikitravel could put you in violation of numerous federal and state laws. We strongly urge you to cease and desist all action detrimental to Wikitravel.org. If you persist in this course of conduct, you will potentially be a named defendant, and therefore liable for any and all resulting damages."
Things came to a head in September, when the company sued two volunteer editors, Doc James (James Heilman) and Wrh2 (Ryan Holliday), focusing on their encouragement of Wikitravel editors to fork and join a Wikimedia-run travel guide (see our special report: "Two Wikipedians may face jury trial"). Geoff Brigham, the WMF's general counsel, stated yesterday that in the lawsuit:
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'.
Soon after IB's action, though, the WMF countered with its own lawsuit, asking the court to declare that:
IB has no right to limit the use of user-created CC-licensed content on Wikitravel;
all such content may be freely migrated without interference from IB;
IB has no lawful right to prevent current or former Wikitravel volunteers from freely contributing to a new Wikimedia-owned travel website;
Wikimedia may contact, communicate with, or express support for any current or former volunteer Wikitravel authors or administrators who are seeking to participate in the new website, even if this results in those people no longer contributing to Wikitravel; and
Wikimedia may assist people to copy and migrate content from Wikitravel to a WMF or third-party site.
After clearing several hurdles and receiving a tentative ruling in the WMF's favor, the second lawsuit ended on 14 February in a negotiated settlement between the two entities. IB agreed to release the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikivoyage e.V., the not-for-profit operator of the original Wikivoyage, from "any and all claims related in any manner to the creation and operation of the travel wiki project" in return for the WMF's dismissal of the lawsuit. Brigham summed up the outcome at the end of his Wikimedia blog post:
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. ... 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.
Ryan Holliday, one of the two volunteers who were originally sued, commented:
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 [Cooley LLP, the law firm representing both Holliday and the WMF], 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.
Twice25, an Italian Wikipedian, passed away this week.
Death of a Wikipedian: The Italian Wikipedia contributor Twice25 passed away this week. Twice25, who was also known on the site by his real name Tullio, had been an editor since 2003, contributing more than 130,000 edits in that time and organizing meetups in his native Genoa. Crucconecommented on Wikimedia-l that Twice25 "always refused any proposal for adminship, but nonetheless he has been really influential in the growth of the project, always willing to give advice to anyone needing it. ... We have lost a great Wikipedian, but above all we have lost a friend." A goodbye section has been set up on the Italian Village Pump; many editors are also signing their names on Twice25's talk page.
Affiliations Committee (Affcom): The new appointments to the recently expanded Affcom, in charge of guiding organizations seeking to affiliate themselves with the WMF through a process on Meta, have been announced, with two reappointments and five new editors. There are a total of eleven voting members of the committee, with the others being appointed last March.
Individual Engagement Grants (IEGs): Siko Bouterse, the head of IEGs, has announced the members of the first IEG committee, which will recommend IEG proposals to the WMF to fund. In addition, the first round of the IEG process has begun. Members of the community are invited to join in the open discussion period.
Wikimania scholarships: Applications for scholarships to Wikimania 2013 in Hong Kong are still being accepted. Full scholarships cover airfare, lodging, and registration; part scholarships cover up to half of the estimated airfare. Applicants will be rated on their Wikimedia activity (both on- and off-wiki), their open-source activity more broadly, their interest in both Wikimania and the Wikimedia movement, and their grasp of the English language. Applications will be accepted until 23:59 UTC on Friday, 22 February.
Search begins for new WMF board member: The WMF has announced the beginning of their search for a new member of the Board of Trustees to fill the appointed seat vacated by Matt Halprin. They are looking for "a Board member who has experience with organizations that have grown and evolved rapidly, and who understands how boards can evolve to provide appropriate governance support in these changing circumstances. Experience with international, community-driven, consensus organizations is also important as the Foundation would not exist without the community." Those wishing to apply should see the full position description and contact Lisa Grossman at lisagmoppenheim.com.
Hours spent building Wikipedia: A new paper, titled "Using Edit Sessions to Measure Participation in Wikipedia", has estimated the amount of time spent creating Wikipedia's content: "a total of 102,673,683 total labor-hours." Andrew Graytook this farther, estimating that it would have taken "Three years [of] work by a mid-sized university of around 15,000 people (assuming a working day of eight hours and 250 working days in the year)", among others.
UK-based shiplovers wanted: The Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums are advertising a paid Wikimedian-in-Residence post. The position is part-time from 25 March 2013 through 14 June 2013. Andrew Gray, the Wikipedian-in-Residence at the British Library, added that Tyne & Wear is "particularly interested in the prospect of someone wanting to work with [their] shipbuilding and industrial history collections, [along with] digitising some of the material they have in their archives." Full details of the position are available here (.doc file). Applications are open until March 4.
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