Republishing Wikipedia content, revisited
Josh was concerned about the views expressed here and elsewhere, that his company was violating either the law or ethical principles in the way it republishes Wikipedia content. I was impressed with his desire to meet the concerns head-on, and express the measures he’s taken to ensure he’s complying with the law and respecting the Wikipedia community.
However, my concerns about the company’s practices remain.
Josh made several points worth exploring:
- His legal counsel advised him that he could not use the trademarked name “Wikipedia” in his republication, or in marketing his republication. I think this is incorrect, but I’m no attorney. But I’m confident that the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia community would strongly support making it very clear that such a disclosure is not only permissible, but strongly encouraged. (Note that this example notice explicitly mentions Wikipedia as the source.) There may be a legal distinction between using the name “Wikipedia” in the text and in marketing materials; it’s my view that it should be included in both (as a matter of ethics/etiquette, if not law).
- Biographiq’s legal counsel also advised him that he did not have permission to use the names (either given names or login names) of Wikipedia editors. This also strikes me as a profoundly erroneous reading of the GFDL (the license that covers Wikipedia articles). The license’s preamble clearly states “…this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work…”, and specific provisions are outlined in great detail later in the document. (It appears that Biographiq does technically comply with this, by providing a link to the article history Wikipedia maintains in the book itself.)
- Josh acknowledged that Biograqhiq’s web site does not directly list contact information, but felt that the diligent inclusion of contact information in the Whois database was sufficient. I won’t presume to offer business advice on this point to them, but I certainly wouldn’t expect my own customers to find me if I kept my contact info in such a technically inaccessible location.
- Finally, Josh noted that Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has plans to offer his own republishing service soon, at pediapress.com. He noted several differences in the approaches of the two companies, and felt his own approach was superior in several ways. I was previously unaware of pediapress, and will look into it further.
Do I have any readers more familiar with copyright and trademark law, who can comment on the technical issues above?