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[berkman] Wikipedia’s lawyer

Brad Patrick is giving a Tuesday lunchtime talk at the Berkman. He’s outside counsel to the Wikimedia Foundation, the group that owns Wikipedia. (Brad reminds us that Wikipedia needs a ®, which means I’d rather not use it.) Wikipedia is heading towards having its millionth article. [The millionth article ought to be “The Millionth Wikipedia Article.”]

Wikipedia volunteers include: users, editors, administrators, stewards, arbCom (arbitration committee) and OTRS (Open-source Ticket Request System?). A global but small team of lawyers handles the legal issues.

Some questions and answers:

Wikipedia only keeps one cookie, identifying your user name. Server logs are kept for several months.

About 15,000 people have made ten or more edits to the English version, and about twice that for worldwide.

Q: Does the fact that victims of libel could edit the entries themselves change the legal aspects?
A: This question is being addressed. E.g., A German court is wondering if Wikipedia has any obligation not to print the name of a dead hacker known as Tron.

Q: Why is Wikimedia insisting on the ®?
A: [Not Brad] Open software groups have trademarks, e.g., Mozilla, Apache, etc.

Q: When does a user complaint become something that is Wikipedia’s legal responsibility?
A: We usually have the tools in place to respond to legitimate complaints. The intent of the foundation is through the community of users and dialogue to get better articles. When it can’t, it goes to the Help Desk.

Q: How about how you operate in rights restricted countries?
A: I haven’t been involved in Wikipedia’s relationship with China. It’s an ongoing issue, continuing negotiation.

Q: How often are you getting sued these days?
A: At the moment, there’s no pending lawsuits in the US. [Wow!]

Q: Lots of places republish Wikipedia content, which is fine under the terms of the GFDL. Do you see any abuses of that?
A: No.
Q: Suppose they use content and aren’t compliant with the license?
A: The primary problem is who is going to do the policing? The foundation isn’t out to hunt down every users of Wikipedia content that isn’t doing so according to Hoyle. It’s part of the process.

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