User talk:GeoffBrigham (WMF)

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Hello, Geoffbrigham, and welcome to Wikipedia! Thank you for your contributions. I hope you like the place and decide to stay. Here are some pages that you might find helpful:

I hope you enjoy editing here and being a Wikipedian! Please sign your messages on discussion pages using four tildes (~~~~); this will automatically insert your username and the date. If you need help, check out Wikipedia:Questions, ask me on my talk page, or ask your question on this page and then place {{help me}} before the question. Again, welcome! Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 19:32, 9 April 2011 (UTC)


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Hello, GeoffBrigham (WMF). You have new messages at MediaWiki talk:Wikimedia-copyrightwarning.
Message added 13:13, 17 May 2011 (UTC). You can remove this notice at any time by removing the {{Talkback}} or {{Tb}} template.


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Hello, GeoffBrigham (WMF). You have new messages at Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals).
Message added 20:59, 25 August 2011 (UTC). You can remove this notice at any time by removing the {{Talkback}} or {{Tb}} template.

I have a new idea for the page edit notices. Nathan2055talk - review 20:59, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Children as administrators[edit]

Dear Mr. Brigham:

At a recent RfC on allowing non-administrators to view deleted pages, you stated that the proposal would probably create legal problems in the short run (and Congressional acts as a possible longer-run consequence).

Your response provokes me to ask two questions:

  1. Is there any legal concern with allowing children (minors) to become administrators, which allows them to view deleted content?
  2. Should not Wikipedia require that all administrators affirm being 18 years old?

Thank you for your attention. (I would understand if you would prefer not to state anything at the present time or here.)

Sincerely,  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 11:16, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

I am unaware of legal constraints with respect to allowing minors act as administrators, but the community is free to decide that they should not. I would defer to the community's decision in this regard. Geoffbrigham (talk) 01:13, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for your helpful response. Best regards,  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 11:25, 9 February 2012 (UTC)

Follow up[edit]

FYI, on my talk page, editor Malleus Fatuorum whether the WMF legal team know that 1500 English administrators (many of them minors) have access to deleted content.  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 22:01, 9 February 2012 (UTC)

Discussion at Wikipedia:OTRS_noticeboard#Idea:_OTRS_feedback_board[edit]

You are invited to join the discussion at Wikipedia:OTRS_noticeboard#Idea:_OTRS_feedback_board. MorganKevinJ(talk) 19:48, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

SOPA at the german Wikipedia[edit]

We have set up a local protest site and made a banner for the german Wikipedia that could be used as it is. Do you have any suggestions for things we should do? --Liberaler Humanist (talk) 23:04, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Many thanks to Germany for its strong support. It was much appreciated. Geoffbrigham (talk) 14:35, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Confusing SOPA language ...quote?[edit]

RE: "Definition: Foreign Internet site used to conduct business directed to U.S. residents OR that otherwise demonstrates the existence of minimum contacts sufficient for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the owner or operator of the Internet site consistent with the U.S. Constitution; according doesn’t not cover such sites as .com, .org, .biz, etc.; "

  • re: "according doesn’t not cover such sites as .com, .org, .biz, etc.; "
- ``according[ly] doesn’t NOT cover`` means it DOES cover, i.e., DOES apply. Though probably just a markup-error or quote-error, perhaps it should still be noted or corrected before it spreads much further.
  • re: "personal jurisdiction over the owner or operator of the Internet site"
- *personal* jurisdiction?? By whom?
  • re: "demonstrates the existence of minimum contacts sufficient for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the..."
- No comment!

PS: Sorry, but could only post here, as blog comments are closed.

Thanks for keeping us all informed! Wikicat (talk) 22:16, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Wikicat. I will ask one of my legal interns to post here. Thanks. Geoffbrigham (talk) 14:27, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Hello Wikicat. In general, SOPA and PIPA hurt Wikipedia by making the Internet less free, open, and secure. Wikipedia and sister projects are full of links to many other websites, and these websites are located inside and outside the US. Here are some notes:
  • Thanks for carefully reading!
  • Wikipedia would not be a foreign or non-domestic website under SOPA or PIPA, but we may be affected by other aspects of the bills. Under SOPA, Wikipedia may fall within the definition of an "Internet search engine." The definition is slightly different in Smith's manager's amendment, but it may still apply to us. Under PIPA, we may provide an "information location tool," which means a court could issue an order requiring us to remove links to a website.
  • Personal jurisdiction and minimum contacts are legal terms that have to do with the constitutional requirement of a lawsuit--they are not unique to SOPA or PIPA.
I hope that provides some clarification! - Stephen LaPorte (WMF) 18:45, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

your role in the blackout[edit]

I discussed your role the blackout (critically) in a blogpost here. If I have made any errors in fact I welcome correction.--Brian Dell (talk) 08:22, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

In my humble opinion, your blog mischaracterizes and misconstrues my statements, including taking obvious jokes based on exaggeration and turning them into dark sinister statements ("evil" "can't sleep at night"). I also feel comfortable with my legal analysis, which I always sought to be balanced without hyperbole. Indeed, after rereading PIPA, I believe that that legislation so clearly covers Wikipedia, confirming my earlier interpretation of Congress' intent in writing SOPA. Nevermind. I will just let the record speak for itself, and others can judge me based on that. Thanks for your interest in the matter. Geoffbrigham (talk) 14:22, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
I appreciate your having taken the time to assess my understanding. It wasn't obvious to me that you were joking, primarily because the general impression created by the blackout page(s) and Jimbo's comments in the media in my view either approached "very evil" or could foreseeably have led to readers and listeners escalating the claims to that level as they repeated them on through the communication chain and I had no evidence that you weren't fully on board with the direction the rhetoric was taking. In any case I stand corrected and will make a correction. Whatever the accuracy of your analysis, which is quite clearly disputed by some of the people who have been working on this bill, I find it rather ironic that some of the opponents of this bill complain that it allows ex parte court orders but don't seem to find any (moral) injustice in going before an audience to make a case in the absence of an advocate of equal standing to make the case for the opposing view. If you truly appreciate my interest in the matter I just have one final question, and that's to ask if there is any possibility that the blackout could be considered by the IRS to be an "in kind" contribution to the anti-SOPA lobby (ie assess the promotion at its fair market value).--Brian Dell (talk) 05:17, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
@Brian Dell - Just some friendly advice which I hope makes for better discussion - it's not to a good idea to ask a lawyer "Is it possible that (bad legal thing could happen for lawyer's client)?". The typical polite reply to that is going to be something like "Anything is possible, but we are confident that we are legally right" (I won't dwell on possible impolite replies). Ask instead along the lines of "How do you respond to the argument that (bad legal thing for lawyer's client)?". Then go from there - and it's good to have some sense of what the reply will be. Now, I'm not a lawyer, and I certainly don't speak for WMF. But just as a note from observing them over time, one general strategy they frequently use for dealing with issues of dubious actions is to say "NOBODY HOME". That is, it's a personal action by volunteers or people who just happen to be WMF staff acting on their own, which regrettable as it might be, is not a legal action by WMF. So applied here, again, hypothetically, the "community" donated, not the WMF. Prove it didn't happen. It's all speculative anyway unless someone makes a legal fuss, which would be costly on several levels. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 10:24, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

Copyrighted screenshots in images[edit]

Can an image that contains a screenshot of copyrighted software be released as CC-BY-SA? For example, a picture of a turned on computer, with the screen showing copyrighted software such as File:MicroDigital Mico running RISC OS 4.03.jpg or a tv screen showing a logo such as File:Pace DSL4000.jpg. Could you point me to any guidelines regarding such uploads? I am asking as there are a number of such images as part of the Commons:Chris's Acorns batch upload.Smallman12q (talk) 23:12, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for the initial response. Look forward to any suggestions/pointers.Smallman12q (talk) 02:20, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for your patience here. I have asked one of our legal interns to do some research and put their results here. Geoffbrigham (talk) 05:37, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
The following is research and does not represent an official legal opinion from the Wikimedia Foundation. It may contain errors, be incomplete, or be subject to future correction. The legal department can only represent the Wikimedia Foundation on legal matters, so this is not official legal advice to the community.
First, it is important to note that screenshots are viewed as derivative works and are protected under copyright law if the original work is protected. The United States Copyright Act of 1976 defines a derivative work as “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted." (See Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101). Screenshots are analogous to photographs of a copyrighted item, and is considered a derivative work in U.S. jurisdictions.
Can I upload an image onto a Wikimedia Project if it contains a screenshot of copyrighted material?
No. Unless you obtain a proper license from the copyright holder, it is a copyright infringement. Depending on the use of the screenshot and the extent to which the copyright work is the sole subject of the screenshot, there may be a fair use defense. Whether any such use constitutes fair use can only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, Wikimedia’s policies are stricter than that of copyright law and Wikimedia Commons fair use policy does not accept fair use media files. (prepared by Lisa Gee) - Stephen LaPorte (WMF) 01:28, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the response! I've re-posted it at Commons:Commons_talk:Chris's_Acorns#WMF_response. Thanks again!Smallman12q (talk) 17:08, 9 February 2012 (UTC)

Deep linking to subpages of DGM: Terms of service?[edit]

The terms of service (tos) of Discipline Global Mobile (DGM, a record company) expressly prohibit links to any page except the DGM homepage. The tos warns that copyright violations will be pursued legally with tenacity. There is discussion at the talk page of WP's article on DGM's founder, Robert Fripp:

Thank you for any attention.

Sincerely,  Kiefer.Wolfowitz 21:56, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Why selectively purge Jimbo's talkpage?[edit]

Per subject. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:19, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Given that some of the deletions regarded my gf posts, I'm wondering whether "the purge" was a simple mistake or whether there was some reason behind it. In the latter case, I would be grateful to know. Thank you, —MistyMorn (talk) 21:26, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Please explain why you removed so many comments? Thanks. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:28, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Editconflicts don't always actually show up. Usually if they don't show up the end result is someone posting their own comment, and unknowingly removing other peoples'. I'm guessing that's what happened here. Kevin (talk) 21:35, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
On closer examination, it looks as if it was probably just a mistake while you were making a post of your own. —MistyMorn (talk) 21:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Does this editor know what he's doing? Has his account been infiltrated? Whats' going on here? The Rambling Man (talk) 21:37, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
I thought the same as Kevin. I noted a similar thing happen to me once... ie inadvertent deletion of recent posts during an edit conflict. —MistyMorn (talk) 21:41, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
This editor = "General Counsel of Wikimedia Foundation". This was almost certainly a simple mistake, caused by looking at an old revision of the talk page and clicking "edit". Should be sorted now. Amalthea 21:43, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Hmm. Okay, the aggressive response and reversion seems unusual if this is really someone who claims to be part of WMF. Certainly a piss-poor example to set. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:44, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
He probably had no idea he had removed anyone else's response, and got confused that someone had removed his. I doubt Geoff deals with mediawiki that much - and even many people who do regularly deal with mediawiki wouldn't know that editconflicts don't always display (or understand that they deleted half a dozen other comments.) This is pretty clearly a simple misunderstanding all around, and I see no reason for anyone to get grumpy about it. (And it's not 'claims' - this is indeed Geoff's account, and he is indeed the GC for WMF.) Kevin (talk) 21:49, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps, as a "face" of WMF, someone should have a "word" with Geoff. He's just an editor here, so he needs to know how to behave. "Reverting" edits as he did is not welcome. The Rambling Man (talk) 21:54, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
He started from this revision, and thought he only added a simple section. You only saw the content removed and rolled back, from his POV you reverted his comment and he undid with a grumpy edit summary. Again, it's a simple misunderstanding. No big deal. Amalthea 21:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
WP:AGF is policy. WP:Don't ever make a single mistake or ever fail to understand mediawiki bugs isn't. He made an easy mistake to make - in fact, a mistake I have seen more than one other person make - and reacted in a not terribly unreasonable way. Chillax. (Amusingly, I editconflicted with amalthea typing this.) Kevin (talk) 21:59, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
And my mistake, he didn't "revert" he "undid" so ok, but he should perhaps learn to use the Wiki! The Rambling Man (talk) 22:01, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Sorry folks. I'm actually on Metawiki all the time (but no doubt have lots to learn), but, in this particular case, I think I was unknowingly directed to a historical page on Jimmy's talk page and I didn't pay attention. I simply intended to post a comment, and, after I thought I had done that, I blissfully went on to other things...only to find out later that I screwed things up. My humble apologies for the inconvenience and my grumpy note. (I honestly thought someone was playing games with me; looks like it was my own ignorance at play.) I sent The Rambling Man and Amalthea some wikilove, thanking them for cleaning up my mess. Geoffbrigham (talk) 05:27, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Nothing to see here. Move along.
-) Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 05:48, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Your user page[edit]

Hi Geoff,

I hope you don't mind, but I've made a few changes to your user page, which you can view in this diff. My edit summary should explain most of what I've done, but well done on managing to use the template, it can be quite complicated to understand templates at first. When we link "internally", that is, to other Wikimedia wikis, we use something called Wikilinks, as opposed to external links (that you place in single square brackets, for example [ This link to Google] will produce This link to Google).

I've left User:Geoffbrigham/Info as it is for now, but if you'd like for it to be deleted (so that you or another member of staff don't use it accidentally!), I can delete it, as can other, admins that you just might be more acquainted to. Face-wink.svg

The Helpful One 23:34, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Ah, actually that's still needed for now. :) There was a bit of mix-up in the language; Geoff currently has his own disclaimer. At some point we may be able to narrow it down to one template, but aren't there yet. Good thing you switched it out, though, or we might not have noticed. Thanks! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 00:19, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
No problem! Presuming it's just the disclaimer, there's a disclaimer= parameter in the Staff info template, so I updated the page as I didn't notice that the first time. Of course, if something else is different, then feel free to revert. The Helpful One 00:32, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
No, just the disclaimer. Thanks! :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 10:15, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
Helpful - Thank you so much! Geoffbrigham (talk) 18:49, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

German stamps issue[edit]

Hi Geoff; maybe you could chime in over at Commons, commons:Commons:Village_pump/Copyright#German stamps again - quick action needed? - there are currently thousands of stamps from Germany at Commons, labeled as being in the public domain, which doesn't seem to be the case according to the Loriot decision, so what should Commons admins do now? Gestumblindi (talk) 21:47, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Gestumblindi for letting me know. I did leave a comment here: Commons:Loriot_Signature_Background#Case_Status Geoffbrigham (talk) 13:34, 14 April 2012 (UTC)

Legality of[edit]

There is currently a dispute between one user versus some of us sysops over our recent blacklisting of to prevent people from linking to it in Wikipedia articles. The rationale for blacklisting is that because is a warez related site, and Wikipedia servers are located in Florida, then linking to any warez-related site site would be considered a form of contributory infringement in the United States (Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry). has the discussion that resulted in the blacklisting.

User:Ondertitel challenged the blacklisting in a section further down the page (see, stating that only makes .nfo files (information text files) available from each release by a warez group, and in no way facilitates access to any illegal content, and removes any crack codes from the .nfo files prior to publishing them. After looking at a few samples on, I agree that these .nfo files are pretty benign, typically containing an ASCII-art banner from the cracker group accompanied by a rude message or shout-out to their buddies.

I declined the request to remove from the blacklist with the reasoning that, while I myself don't personally see anything amiss, it is better to err on the side of caution and blacklist it, and defer to someone who can offer a legitimate legal opinion. If you wouldn't mind, browse a few links on and respond here on your talk page or at MediaWiki_talk:Spam-blacklist. Thanks. ~Amatulić (talk) 20:39, 20 June 2012 (UTC)

I will ask someone on my team take a look at this, Amatulic. Thanks. Geoffbrigham (talk) 15:38, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I've posted a note (Linking: Some Legal Considerations) discussing the legal issues, particularly contributory liability for copyright infringement, surrounding linking. Hopefully it will help clear up some of the confusion mentioned above. Pholm (WMF) (talk) 22:01, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

Issue you should look into[edit]

Hello Geoff. I believe there are legal implications involved in the issue raised at User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 108#"Speedy deletion wiki". Best regards--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 19:16, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Mirror site using Wikipedia logo and "en.wikipedia" address[edit]

A user who asked to have one of his pages deleted was puzzled to find a copy of it still on I know they are quite entitled to copy WP content, but are they allowed (a) to use the logo and (b) to use a web address that starts "en.wikipedia"? The whole layout is so similar that it seems deliberately deceptive. JohnCD (talk) 00:17, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

I see from village pump that this has been passed along, but given that people are still getting up to speed after Wikimania, I've "bumped' it. :/ --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 18:56, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for bringing this to our attention JohnCD. Both the puzzle globe logo and the name Wikipedia are registered trademarks (U.S. and internationally), and sites like this one are not permitted to use these trademarks in a manner that falsely implies a connection between them and WMF. We will get in touch with the people behind this site and ask them to stop using these trademarks in this manner. Pholm (WMF) (talk) 20:36, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for taking action on this. Just to stress the urgency of it, please also be aware that there have already been multiple instances of where individuals have been confused by the false use of the trademark into believing that it is a WMF website; and in addition there have also been multiple instances of individuals providing their WMF-supplied login credentials to the site in the belief that it is a WMF website.
(The site is listed by Google, people Google things like deleted Wikipedia articles about themselves or someone they know, they then approach Wikipedia editors for help. The usual response is to ask the person for the exact URL they want help with; because that URL looks very similar to a Wikipedia one, often one or more helpers will click on it. The helper then arrives at the fake site, looking just like Wikipedia, but finds they are "logged out"; the natural response is to try to log back in. This then leads to security concerns and therefore password changes when the fake nature of the site is realised.) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 17:40, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the update, Pholm (WMF). I, too, am experiencing issues with this at this page: In my case, Goldfish Swim School is one of my clients and there is clearly incorrect and harmful information frozen in this mirror. Should we just stay glued to this Talk for more updates from Wikipedia? Even spending most of my professional time on the Web, I will admit that I was, at first, thrown by this false proxy. --taylorhulyk 21:19, 3 August 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Taylorhulyk (talkcontribs)
Nw development: the site has updated itself. Up to now, it seemed to be a static dump of en:wp as at 8 April, but its main page now shows yesterday's (11 Aug) version, and its version of the Recent Changes list is, as I write, actually up to 08:45 (UTC) today, 12 Aug. JohnCD (talk) 10:19, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
JohnCD, Demiurge1000, and Taylorhulyk, thanks again for keeping me posted on the latest developments. Sometimes it may take a little longer to determine who is responsible for the site, due to anonymization strategies such as whois obfuscation. I am still working on it, and I will keep you updated when we make progress. If you have any information that might be useful, it is always appreciated. Pholm (WMF) (talk) 18:22, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm happy to see it's now gone - "404 not found". Well done. JohnCD (talk) 17:10, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
We're also happy. Thanks for keeping an eye on this JohnCD. Pholm (WMF) (talk) 18:28, 16 August 2012 (UTC)


I just got a complaint about this rather different site (warning, many rude words). This one is much more difficult to misinterpret, but it does have the "a Wikimedia Project" button in the bottom right, and a messed-around version of the trademarked globe in the top left, as well as the statement "PULP-PEDIA® IS A FAGGOT REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF THE SHITTY PULP-MEDIA FOUNDATION, INC!", with the latter being a link to ... and also lots of basically unattributed Wikipedia content (presumably dynamically generated.) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 21:15, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

On the plus side, its "DONATE TO PULP-PEDIA" link goes right through to the legitimate "Donation to Wikimedia UK" page for me :-) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 21:19, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Copy of Google translate = copyright violation?[edit]

Hi, would it be possible to get a statement regarding the issue described in Wikipedia talk:Pages needing translation into English#Copy of Google translate = copyright violation?? If machine translations create a copyright of the translator (e.g. Google) on the translated contents, then WP has a big problem to sort out since that happened frequently so far. If not, then everything is fine from a legal point of view. Thanks El reggae (talk) 14:56, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

Hi, El reggae. Coincidentally, this is on my to-do list for today. :) See Meta:Wikilegal/Copyright for Google Translations for research on the issue posted by User:Hahnw in response to that very question. I'll head off now and post this at that discussion. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 15:09, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

Beatles mediation[edit]

There is currently a mediation case open to determine the proper use of the band name, "The Beatles" or "the Beatles" in running-prose. As the issue of trade marks has come up, I wondered if you could shed any light on the issue for us. As both "Beatles" and "The Beatles" are trade marked, is wikipedia in any way forced to use "The Beatles" mid-sentence, or is "the Beatles" acceptable in the legal sense? Thanks for you time. ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:36, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

Also, if editor "A" says, "Remember, 'The Beatles' is a registered trademark of Apple Corps Ltd.", isn't this tantamount to a legal threat? Afterall, the point of the above statement seems to be "if we don't cap all the definite articles in Beatles related pages then we might get sued by Apple." Any thoughts? ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 22:29, 18 August 2012 (UTC)


I've been advised to bring this to you. I've found that grimepedia are using the tern 'Grime Wikipedia' in their site. I couldn't find any contact info but you can see one example at and there are a few more in the site. I found this by accident (not being even sure what 'grime' music is) in the course of an AfD, while establishing that it isn't a reliable independent source. They are probably unaware that Wikipedia is a trade mark, so I had thought of sending a message sort of friendly, like... But couldn't. Probably better through you, anyway. Peridon (talk) 18:40, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

See User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 99#Wikipedia, a wiki (February and March 2012).
Wavelength (talk) 18:58, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi, Peridon, Wavelength. :) I'll make sure that this gets to the attorneys who handle trademark. Thank you so much for pointing this out! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 19:17, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia name and trademark being used by a company pimping writers to create spam for pay[edit] --Orange Mike | Talk 01:57, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Hi Orange Mike. Thank you for letting us know about this! We will certainly look into it. --Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel, WMF

Your "official" comment requested FTC requirements regarding disclosure of conflicts of interest[edit]

Could you comment on whether we need to make disclosures of commercial conflicts of interest a hard requirement to comply with recent FTC regulations? There is a discussion with links here. This has been prompted by the recent German court decision against a corporate COI Wikipedia editor. The German court found that even talk page disclosure of COI wasn't enough, since consumers likely wouldn't read the talk page. I don't know if we need to go that far here, but our current COI policy of "gently encouraged disclosure" probably doesn't go nearly far enough to protect us from potential liability. Gigs (talk) 21:46, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Hi Gigs. Thank you for the question. We will look into this matter for you and let you know when an official response is to be posted. Please be advised that this Monday is a U.S. holiday, so it may be closer to the end of the week before we can get anything posted. Please accept our apologies for any delay. I should note that the FTC has very limited jurisdiction over non-profits. However, that does not necessarily mean that the actions of U.S. corporate entities on Wikimedia projects are not restricted by FTC regulations, nor does it mean that foreign entities (for or non-profit) are not subject to the restrictions of their own local agencies. --Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel, WMF —Preceding undated comment added 18:07, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
Thank you. Gigs (talk) 14:49, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

I hope that the response below is helpful. I apologize, but I'm afraid I do have to include the following disclaimers:

  • This response is not legal advice or a representation of the viewpoints of the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • The legal team can only represent the Wikimedia Foundation on legal matters, so this is not official advice to the community.
  • The legal team cannot provide consultations, and contacting the legal team does not create any confidential relationship.
  • This response is not intended to address a specific factual situation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:16, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

The Foundation does not need to make disclosures of commercial conflicts of interest a hard requirement. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has extremely limited jurisdiction over the activities of nonprofit organizations. The FTC Act gives the FTC authority over “persons, partnerships, or corporations.” (15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(2)). The Act defines “corporation” as any company, trust, or association, incorporated or unincorporated, “which is organized to carry on business for its own profit or that of its members.” (15 U.S.C. § 44). The Wikimedia Foundation does not fit within this definition.

The FTC’s jurisdiction does extend over certain nonprofit entities. But the Wikimedia Foundation does not conduct the types of activities that would expose it to FTC jurisdiction. The FTC has jurisdiction over any nonprofit association that “provides substantial economic benefit to its for-profit members.” (California Dental Ass’n v. FTC, 526 U.S. 756 (1999)). Thus, a nonprofit trade association organized for the profit of a particular industry would be subject to the FTC’s jurisdiction. The Foundation does not exist for the benefit of any profit-seeking members and is not the sort of nonprofit organization that would be subject to FTC jurisdiction.

Further, the recent FTC regulations do not contemplate liability for organizations such as the Foundation. The Foundation is not an “advertiser” or “endorser” as defined in the recent FTC guidelines. See 16 CFR § 255.

Companies that endorse or advertise products through Wikipedia must keep in mind that both U.S. and foreign laws may apply to their actions. According to the recent FTC guidelines, “[w]hen there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.” 16 FCR § 255.5. If a company posts information about its own products or services on Wikipedia (or if an advertiser or marketing agency is being paid to post such information), the connection should be fully disclosed. -- William Kelly, Legal Intern, WMF —Preceding undated comment added 22:30, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

In the matter of 2012 'abuse' scandals.[edit]


It would be greatly appreciated, if as the WMF's legal expert you were able to assist Wikipedians in providing an appropriate response in relation to a number of articles covering the recent 'child abuse' allegations in the UK. From what I can gather certain claims were made in various media outlets (and in other on-line but unreliable sources), which resulted in a senior political official who was wrongly identified having to issue a strongly worded denial. The same senior official is apparently now considering legal action to get various internet posts that wrongly identified them and linked them with the ongoing abuse allegations. At some point, these claims (or the denial of them) were mentioned in Wikipedia articles, although in respect of one article these were revison deleted per the existing BLP policy.

It would be appreciated if acting in your role as General Counsel, you could begin a dialogue with the named official's legal representatives,with a view to ensuring Wikipedia's coverage is fair, accurate and proportionate. Sfan00 IMG (talk) 13:45, 11 November 2012 (UTC)

Hi Sfan00,
Thank you for your note. To date we have not been contacted about this issue by the subject of the article. As for the current version of the Wikipedia pages at issue, we of course ask that editors adhere to the BLP policy at all times.
If the individual would like to contact us about this matter, he may do so via email ( or at the following address:
Wikimedia Foundation
c/o CT Corporation System
818 West Seventh Street
Los Angeles, California 90017
Phone: +1 (415) 839-6885
Facsimile number: +1 (415) 882-0495
Many thanks Geoffbrigham (talk) 20:17, 14 November 2012 (UTC)
Support - This is Wikipedia at its worst. A horrible false defamatory accusation is made, and there's a faction which wants that damage to continue forever, following the person for the rest of his life in his Wikipedia's biography, otherwise they cry "censorship". Note this shouldn't be a matter of powerful people getting special treatment, while the powerless are thrown to the lack of mercy of the "community". Rather, I'd implore this to be a "teachable moment" about not propagating lies. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 15:53, 11 November 2012 (UTC)
More analysis here- Sfan00 IMG (talk) 20:38, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

Flavio Briatore[edit]

FYI: a new user, Shadow003 (talk · contribs), has said that this article "contained false and slanderous information, and it has been formally contested by Mr Briatore’s lawyer with a letter of formal notice to the Wikimedia foundation." See WP:ANI#Legal notice, WMF involvement? and WP:BLPN#Flavio Briatore. Regards, JohnCD (talk) 13:46, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

Fixed link to BLPN. KTC (talk) 14:00, 4 December 2012 (UTC) -- Thank you. JohnCD (talk) 14:28, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

Some information for you:

Uncle G (talk) 16:54, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

Wikiproject Med Foundation[edit]

Hi Geoff. I'm on the board of the above. In this comment, Bence of ChapCom says, "WMF will not provide any recognition or trademark permission until Wiki Med Foundation changes its name legally to another name that is acceptable to AffCom and WMF Legal." I was already aware of AffCom's view regarding our name, but I wasn't aware until he posted that comment that you'd offered advice on the matter. Could you please confirm that you have advised the Foundation not to recognise us under the above name?

I should point out that the board is very attached to the existing name and it is highly unlikely to change the name without good cause, and none of us believes the present argument from AffCom (that it may be confused with Wikimedia Foundation) has any merit. Some view AffCom's stance on this as being a simple exercise in dominance. (We incorporated without involving AffCom.) I have no view on the latter point. If it is your advice that we must change our name before the Foundation recognises us, it is highly unlikely that recognition will ever happen, and I would consider that to be a less than ideal outcome.

This discussion between Bence and some project members six months ago, and this earlier discussion between Bence and James Heilman, our chair, over the recognition process for Wikimedia Canada cover some of the background of the present situation. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 14:16, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

The comment was that we would not be recognized as "Wiki Med" SJ however stipulated that "Wiki Project Med" is okay and we are in the process of changing our name to that. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks. Anyway if there are still issues let us know. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) (if I write on your page reply on mine) 14:35, 23 January 2013 (UTC)
Ah. Sorry Geoff. I didn't know that. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 14:48, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

Silk Road[edit]

Silk Road (marketplace) (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views)

Hi Geoff, I'd like to draw your attention to a particular discussion. The point at issue is whether this article about a website should include a link to the subject website, in line with our usual practice for articles about websites. I don't mean to draw you into a content dispute, but several editors have claimed that there is a legal issue here that the WMF will have an opinion on, possibly including an office action to prohibit the link from being included in the article, and at least two editors claim that they have already contacted the foundation. I'm all for involving the WMF when appropriate, and as an administrator I'm happy to enforce any WMF rulings and office actions, but in this case there are two meta-issues that concern me:

  1. Firstly, in the discussion so far, a large number of claims have been made about this website. To get the facts out of the way, as you can see from the article the website exists primarily to act as a facilitator for the sale and purchase of items, including illegal drugs (primary pot) and certain other contraband. It appears to be the case that people use the site in order to break the law, and arguably the site itself would illegal to operate in the state of Florida. While neither of those facts necessarily imply that it is illegal to access or or link to the website, they may be sufficient to make the WMF choose to prohibit linking to it. I don't want to point fingers or infer bad faith, but I note the discussion has unfortunately been clouded by many other claims that do not appear to be either supported by any evidence. For example, it has been suggested that the website:
    • Hosts child pornography
    • Practices phishing to steal users' bank accounts
    • Contains malware, trojan horses, and/or malicious scripts
    • Sells firearms and explosives
    • Encourages or supports terrorism
    • Hosts copyright violations
    It seems to me that there are two possible bad outcomes that might arise if such information were to form an input into any WMF decision in this matter: one is that a decision may be made specifically about Silk Road that is incorrect because it relies on false information; another is that a more general decision may be announced whose criteria do not apply to the Silk Road case, but which editors then attempt to apply to it. To mitigate these risks, I encourage you to approach any communications that include claims of this nature with extreme skepticism.
  2. The second issue is a problem for the community, which the WMF may be able to assist with. Some editors apparently believe that, once somebody has claimed that there is a legal issue the WMF may have an opinion on, then the content in question must be excluded from Wikipedia until such time as the WMF makes an announcement explicitly allowing it. I cannot see any foundation for this belief, and it seems to me quite insidious, not least because it is my understanding that in the majority of cases the WMF makes no announcement and takes no office action, especially where there is found to be no legal issue with the content. I would welcome a brief announcement from the WMF that they place no such requirement on foundation projects like Wikipedia.

Thanks, Bovlb (talk) 05:45, 20 April 2013 (UTC)

Hi Bovlb,

Thank you for contacting us about this issue. We have looked into this matter and believe that the decision as to whether the linked website in question should remain linked from Wikipedia is one that lies with the community. We trust the community's judgment here and do not believe this matter rises to the level of an office action at this time.

The Foundation has actually drafted some guidance on linking liability consideration, which you may find useful.

As to your second question, with rare exception (such as execution of a formal DMCA takedown notice), the community is free to work within ordinary community processes in evaluating content, even if there is a legal issue involved. That said, if any user believes there is a legal issue involved, they should feel free to contact the Foundation's legal team. We are always happy to take a look at these kinds of issues.

Hope this helps! Michelle Paulson (WMF) —Preceding undated comment added 18:17, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the swift response Michelle. That's very helpful. Bovlb (talk) 05:42, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

PyeongChang 2018[edit]

Hey I have had a heated discussion with editors and administrators regarding the fact that the logo of the 2018 Olympic Games is in Commons. I am concerned that the IOC being very protective of its brands, some persons could believe that they are free game in good faith reading Commons, start using these logos for their own purposes and get into trouble with the people from Lausanne. Thanks for the consideration you grant to my request. Hektor (talk) 08:27, 22 May 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

The IOC can not protect what is ineligible for protection. I do not understand what you expect our friend here to do Hektor, when it has been explained to you that three separate licenses all apply to this image because of it's incredible simplicity. Fry1989 eh? 05:37, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok let me explain again. The IOC will sue, since they are extremely protective of their brands. And then there will be a lawsuit between the IOC and the WIkimedia foundation. It will cost money, no matter who eventually wins. It might well happen that the IOC eventually loses, but there will be money spent. So my question is, aren't there better ways to spend the money of the Wikimedia Foundation than to defend the presence of this image on Commons, especially knowing that we can put it in the various wikipedias and claim fair use, which will make no difference to the casual user ? What is the added value for us there ? Hektor (talk) 07:52, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
In addition, if I go to the IOC web page here, I see that there is a ™ sign next to 2018. This is omitted from what has been posted on Wikipedia Commons. Can you explain why ? Hektor (talk) 10:25, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
And let me reiterate, they can not protect what is ineligible for protection. If they sued, they would fail. We have a few other Olympic Games logos on Commons that are also too simple. I told you the reason Sochi was removed from Commons is because it uses a distinct font created just for the logo. PyeongChang's logo does not. In 2010, the FBI tried to threaten Wikimedia with action if we didn't remove their seal from Commons. They got humiliated by our then-general counsel Mike Goodwin he refused and schooled them on the law. The threat of a lawsuit does not always mean it will happen, or that it would be successful. We aren't overly precautious out of fear here, especially when we know the law is on our side. As for your last point, a Trademark and a Copyright are two different things. We have tonnes of trademarks on Commons, that does not make an image incompatible with Commons licensing requirements. Fry1989 eh? 16:50, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
Hi Hektor,
Thanks for reaching out to us. As a general matter, the legal department does not advise community members on whether particular items are subject to copyright as we only represent the Wikimedia Foundation on legal matters. Until we receive a valid DMCA takedown notice, we leave it to the community to evaluate content based on available information.
Generally, the threshold for determining whether an item is original enough to be copyrightable is fairly low. See Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991) (noting that “the requisite level of creativity is extremely low . . . a work may be original even though it closely resembles other works so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result of copying.”). But material could be in the public domain due to other circumstances. A complete DMCA notice from a copyright owner may include information that is not otherwise available, which would help us to determine whether an item is in fact copyrighted.
Additionally, even if an item is in the public domain for the purposes of copyright, it may nevertheless be trademarked. This is a possible future topic for a general discussion on the Wikilegal page and we may solicit community feedback on this topic in the coming months.
Thanks! YWelinder (WMF) (talk) 20:49, 23 May 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for your answer. I will wait for the outcomes of this discussion. Hektor (talk) 07:51, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Sockpuppets and ISPs[edit]

Hi MR Brigham. I think my question for you is a simple one:

Serial sockpuppeteers are a major timesink for Wikipedia, inhibiting the ability to work on articles as much as we'd like to. Can WMF issue some sort of cease-and-desist order to the ISPs of serial sockers? I'm assuming that repeated use of Wikipedia against WMF's TOS is itself a violation of the TOS of most ISPs, which I'm guessing means that individual ISPs can then either decline service entirely, or filter Wikipedia out for individual subscribers. Can WMF do this, and would WMF do this to protect the project? And if not, why? Thanks, — The Potato Hose 19:40, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

Hi The Potato Hose! Thank you for your question. Serial malicious sockpuppeteers are certainly harmful to the Projects and we understand your frustration in dealing with them. As you know, however, Wikipedia and all of the Wikimedia Projects are community-made and community-managed. Some of this management includes certain administrators with appropriate rights reporting serial malicious sockpuppeteers to ISPs in accordance with the Wikimedia Privacy Policy, if the particular circumstances of a case warrant such reporting. The community has done exceedingly well in fulfilling this role and we believe that continuing to work through community processes is the correct decision at present. There may be times (under rare circumstances) where the Foundation's legal team would step in if a particular case calls for it in terms of severity of abuse and exhaustion of community processes. If you come across a case that you believe warrants Foundation intervention, you can alert me or Maggie Dennis (WMF) directly. I hope this addresses your concerns. Please feel free to let us know if you have any further questions or concerns. --Michelle Paulson, Legal Counsel (WMF) (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 19:10, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
Where are these administrators who have the right to speak on behalf of WMF? I know if I owned an ISP and got an email from someone claiming to be an admin on Wikipedia, it'd go to dev/null pretty quickly. Why is the WMF uninterested in enforcing its own terms of use? — The Potato Hose 19:31, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
Actually most ISPs send all complaints about behaviour of their subscribers to /dev/null (why are you editing from the root directory, btw?), with the exception of those that come from the police and similar bodies. That may be one reason why WMF cannot easily become involved here; any WMF involvement would need to be "nuclear" enough to get through that "does it look like I'm bovvered what my subscribers are doing?" attitude. So, either legal action undertaken by the WMF, or a withdrawal of Wikipedia editing privileges from all of the ISP's subscribers unless logged in. The latter could be done by a sufficiently determined administrator anyway, the former is unlikely to be appropriate if the problem is some goon repeatedly adding insults about Rockall or some other entity to which they have taken a dislike.
(Not speaking for WMF obviously!) --Demiurge1000 (talk) 00:56, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

Two articles affected by matters currently before British courts.[edit]

Please take a look at Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#Is Wikipedia subject to gags by British courts? It seems that in the case of one of the articles police have already forced an admin to do certain edits. Both matters involve publishing the identities of crime victims. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 10:39, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Hi Dodger67! Please accept my apologies for the late reply. We believe that the decision as to whether to publish the identities of crime victims rests with the community. It falls to the community to exercise editorial discretion as it deems fit for a responsible encyclopedia, and we do not interfere with community decisions in that regard.
With regard to your jurisdictional question, conflicting laws (or at least conflicts between the laws of different countries due to the prioritization of different public policies, in this case freedom of the press and privacy) are complicated to navigate and there is rarely a clear-cut answer. Though we here at the WMF legal department believe that only US law applies, courts in other countries may feel differently. In the past, we have convinced courts not to pursue gag orders because of, among other reasons, the Streisand effect. Unfortunately, not all authorities have fully grasped the concept of the Streisand effect. I am extremely disappointed to hear that UK authorities may have abused their power to have content deleted and would like to hear more about this incident, so that I can reach out to the UK authorities involved. If you have anymore information about this incident involving the Peter Tobin article, please feel free to email me at mpaulson[at]
We would like to remind editors that, per our Terms of Use, every editor is legally responsible for their edits and should be mindful of the laws of the countries that may claim jurisdiction over them.--Mpaulson (WMF) (talk) 20:27, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Personal and Moral Rights?[edit]

In a discussion with Jimmy Wales on the moral rights of the photographers and the personal rights of the subjects, he said "I think that the commons community has gone down a very sad and disappointing path with respect to ethical matters. My views on this are not new, and are well known. Our project is a grand humanitarian effort. That it has been hijacked by people who do not share our values is something that needs to be fixed."

We further requested him to bring this matter to the attention of WMF and make a resolution or something to force Commons make enough policies to protect our rights as a photographer and our commitments to our subjects. He replied: "I am just one board member on this issue. I will continue to call this to the attention of the board and staff, but I need help from the community to illustrate that this is a problem that concerns many of us."

So we would like to bring that discussion to the attention of every member on board. JKadavoor Jee 11:17, 29 July 2013 (UTC)


Even, when a 16-years old kid hounded by a bully admin under an indifferent watch of the WMF and the Arbcom feels like killing himself? Wont to see the links? I would have provided you with some, but I am trying to protect the kid here. (talk) 23:15, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Just wondering if this passes our trademark rules[edit]

Used on the page QR code

Not that I want to use it or anything like that. Just saw it and wondered. Perhaps this specific image could be "grandfathered in". Smallbones(smalltalk) 15:18, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

Hi, Smallbones. :) We have a trademark team who reviews these kinds of issues. I'll go ahead and alert them to this one so they can determine if it's okay. Thanks! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) (talk) 16:00, 27 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for reaching out to us about this. It is not an appropriate use of a Wikipedia trademark with a QR code. QR codes can use non-stylized wordmarks. Having said that, this image is displayed on Wikipedia as an example of a "QR code with artistic embellishment." It can continue being used for that limited purpose, provided it is not used in actual QR codes. YWelinder (WMF) (talk) 02:03, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

"Legality" of republishing[edit]

Hi, sorry to bother you. I recently changed Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks (diff) to try to reduce our potential liability for defamatory statements republished by third parties. My concern is simply that we shouldn't make blanket claims about republishing being "legal". I don't know if that's really a problem, but I suspect that anyone who finds themselves libeled in any Wikipedia article that was "legally" republished in my (British) jurisdiction would attempt to sue the republisher who might then claim against WMF etc. Anyway, over to you. - Pointillist (talk) 21:34, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

VDM Publishing[edit]

I have found some of my articles being sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. as books (See [1]). It appears that there are fake reviews that help deceive customers that these are valuable items rather than merely reprints of wikipedia articles (See [2]). All of this activity seems to be done by VDM Publishing. Does wikipedia have any particular stance on VDM Publishing?

Yank Barry[edit]

Hi Geoff. You undoubtedly know that the subject of this Wikipedia article has begun legal proceedings against some Wikipedia editors. For info, I've just closed an RfC to do with the article: Talk:Yank_Barry#RfC:_Should_Barry_be_characterized_as_a_former_member_of_The_Kingsmen.3F. Thanks. Formerip (talk) 22:54, 6 July 2014 (UTC)

You've Been Emailed![edit]

Hello, GeoffBrigham (WMF). Please check your email; you've got mail!
It may take a few minutes from the time the email is sent for it to show up in your inbox. You can remove this notice at any time by removing the {{You've got mail}} or {{ygm}} template.

Legality of hosting classified documents on Commons[edit]


I've recently noticed that Wikimedia Commons contains at least one, and probably more, classified documents from WikiLeaks. I posted to Commons' village pump to ask how such material can be legally hosted on Commons, and was told that the matter is somewhat unclear. Do you (or anyone else at the WMF) know if there is or should be a policy or law forbidding classified material on Wikimedia projects? Thank you for your time,

--Jakob (talk) aka Jakec 18:58, 22 December 2015 (UTC)

Hi Jakec - We are taking a look at this and I hope to get back to you after the holidays, if that is OK. GeoffBrigham (WMF) (talk) 14:00, 25 December 2015 (UTC)
Hi Jakob - We are currently reviewing this topic. Thank you. -JGrace (WMF) (talk) 23:08, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
Hi Jakob - We have created a short Wikilegal post regarding your inquiry. JGrace (WMF) (talk) 18:35, 18 January 2016 (UTC)

Policy question[edit]

There's a discussion at Wikipedia talk:Harassment#Example 3 where I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts, or those of anyone from the WMF Legal group. Thanks! --Tryptofish (talk) 00:28, 10 February 2016 (UTC)