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The battle lines are clear now: Wikimedia is moving ahead with plans to create a new travel wiki, and Internet Brands is trying to protect its own commercial interests in its existing Wikitravel. This showdown will be a turning point in the wiki movement.
The foundation, which is the parent of Wikipedia, filed a lawsuit September 5 in Superior Court in San Francisco against Internet Brands, which operates the for-profit Wikitravel, seeking a court declaration that Internet Brands has no right to block or threaten Wikimedia from copying content from Wikitravel that was created under the Creative Commons license.
“Now, therefore, it [Wikimedia] seeks a judicial declaration that it may continue its mission by pursuing the creation of a new travel wiki without intimidation or interference from IB [Internet Brands], whether directed against Wikimedia or against individual volunteers who do not possess the financial means to fully and fairly defend themselves,” the suit says (full lawsuit embedded below).
Seeks court clarification of the issues
In its suit, Wikimedia notes that Internet Brands filed a lawsuit August 28 in Superor Court, Los Angeles, against two Wikimedia volunteers over the Wiki travel initiative and, without naming Wikimedia as a defendant, alleged that Wikimedia and the volunteers are engaged in a “civil conspiracy.” One of the volunteers is based in Los Angeles, the other in Canada.
In a blog post about the issue, Wikimedia deputy general counsel Kelly Kay writes that the Wikimedia Foundation board supports the creation of a new, non-commercial travel wiki “and is moving forward with the creation of the new project.”
By August 23, the wiki community, after participating in an extensive request for comment which began in April, voted 540 to 152 in favor of creating the new travel wiki under Wikimedia Foundation auspices.
In Wikimedia’s litigation against Internet Brands, it seeks clarity from the court in ensuring that it is free to operate a new travel wiki and that authors, administrators and other individuals are authorized to contribute to the new site without fear of intimidation from Internet Brands.
Wikimedia is also seeking attorneys’ fees from Internet Brands.
“Our community and potential new community members are key to the success of all of our projects,” the Wikimedia Foundation attorney wrote in the blog post September 5. “We will steadfastly and proudly defend our community’s right to free speech, and we will support these volunteer community members in their legal defense. We do not feel it is appropriate for Internet Brands, a large corporation with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, to seek to intimidate two individuals.”
Wikimedia argues that under the Creative Commons license, content that is currently hosted on Internet Brands’ Wikitravel can freely be copied and used elsewhere as long as there is proper attribution.
“Internet Brands appears to be attempting to thwart the creation of a new, non-commercial travel wiki in a misguided effort to protect its for-profit Wikitravel site,” Kay of Wikimedia writes.
Kay adds: “The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. We are devoted to creating and nurturing free knowledge projects supported by volunteers. Our actions today represent the full stride of our commitment to protect the Wikimedia movement against the efforts of for-profit entities like Internet Brands to prevent communities and volunteers from making their own decisions about where and how freely-usable content may be shared.”
Internet Brands has not responded to several requests for comment on the issue over the past several weeks.
Here is the complete Wikimedia Foundation lawsuit against Internet Brands: