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In response to the spurious lawsuit against ex-Wikitravel volunteers, Wikimedia’s lawyers Cooley LLC have yesterday filed a motion to strike Internet Brands’ charges under California’s SLAPP legislation. Full document attached below, and it’s a really good read (seriously!), but a few select tidbits for your reading pleasure:

The Complaint filed by Plaintiff Internet Brands, Inc (“IB”) is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”), a meritless action brought not to win, but to intimidate, threaten and ultimately silence persons engaged in speech that IB dislikes but the Constitution protects. …

IB’s claims against Ryan rest – entirely – on allegations that Ryan was involved in sending emails to Wikitravel users concerning the proposal to set up a new travel site allegedly called “Wiki Travel Guide”.  As a reading of these communications shows, to the extent they contain any “use” of a trademark at all, such use is limited to referencing “Wikitravel” by name to distinguish it from a new travel site being planned.  This is known as nominative use, and is permitted by law. …

IB’s state law claims for trademark infringement, state law unfair competition and civil conspiracy can and should be dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute … because they all arise from constitutionally protected speech and IB cannot demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits.  …

IB may not survive dismissal by simply reciting the elements of a Lanham Act claim without supporting factual allegations.  … For this reason alone, Count II of the Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Full text: 2012-09-26 D6 Notice of Defendants’ Special Motion to Strike

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, has today officially announced that they will proceed with the creation of a Wikimedia travel guide.  This follows the overwhelming support expressed during the public comment period, with 542 in favor versus 152 against, and the community behind the original travel wiki, Wikitravel, has already regrouped at Wikivoyage in preparation for joining the Wikimedia project.

In my previous post, I had discussed the limited options available to Wikitravel’s site owner Internet Brands, and optimistically predicted that they would not resort to legal action.  Unfortunately, I have been proved wrong, as Internet Brands did resort to the courts — but instead of picking on someone their own size, they sued two Wikitravel volunteers active in the fork effort, James “Jmh649″ Heilman and Ryan “Wrh2″ Holliday, alleging a “civil conspiracy” (I kid you not!) against them and threatening to expand the scope of the suit to cover “additional co-conspirators”.  Indeed, a number of Wikitravel users have received vague but threatening notices from Internet Brands’ legal department, alleging that their action may be “in violation of numerous federal and state laws”.

In the opinion of the Wikimedia Foundation, all this is an “obvious attempt to intimidate” people involved in the fork, and to their infinite credit they’re not taking it lying down: they have on this same day filed a suit against Internet Brands in San Francisco, “seeking a judicial declaration that Internet Brands has no lawful right to impede, disrupt or block the creation of a new travel oriented, Wikimedia Foundation-owned website in response to the request of Wikimedia community volunteers”.  As the 11-page suit clearly lays out, Internet Brands’ position is not merely baseless but preposterous, and I’m very much looking forward to them getting slapped down.

Meanwhile, over at Wikitravel, Internet Brands has been busily reverting out discussion about the fork, protecting pages so they cannot be edited, blocking users who dare mention the fork, and summarily removing administrator privileges from dissenting users, which unsurprisingly has done them no favors with the community.  They’ve already once temporarily shut down all editing on the site to all users who are not “bureaucrauts” (sic!), and it seems a matter of time until my prediction comes true and they lock it down permanently.

Update: By popular demand, here’s a diagram that attempts to explain how Wikitravel, Wikivoyage and the as-to-be-unnamed Wikimedia Travel project relate to each other:The end goal is thus that the content and communities from both Wikitravel and Wikivoyage will become Wikimedia Travel, strong and vibrant under a host that shares the ethos and has the technical capability and other resources to maintain it.   As an inevitable side effect, Wikitravel the site will die a slow and lingering death.

 

 

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