April 23, 2009

Wikimedia Foundation vs Wikipedia Art (wikipediaart.org)

Echoes: EFF - Wikipedia Threatens Artists for Fair Use

Can a noncommercial critical website use the trademark of the entity it critiques in its domain name? Surprisingly, it appears that the usually open-minded folks at Wikipedia think not.

[Snip description]

Yep, they used the term "wikipedia" in their domain name."Wikipedia" is a trademark owned by the Wikimedia Foundation. And now the Foundation has demanded that the artists give up the domain name peaceably or it will attempt to take it by (legal) force.

Wikipedia should know better. There is no trademark or cybersquatting issue here. First, the site is entirely noncommercial, which puts it beyond the reach of U.S. trademark law. (We note that Paul Levy of Public Citizen, who has helped establish key precedents on this issue, has signed on to represent Wikipedia Art). Moreover, even if U.S. trademark laws somehow reached this noncommercial activity, the artists' use of the mark is an obvious fair use. ...

Legal history at Wikipedia Art

I still support the goals of the Wikipedia project, despite my personal disappointment in how they have been handling matters. I find it distressing that their commitment to an open encyclopedia is in stark contrast with their effort to effectively shut down what is clearly an artistic project that asks us to reflect on the Wikipedia system of knowledge production.

Last year, I was a Wikipedia donor. I find it ironic that some small portion of my monetary contribution may be used to pay for their legal counsel in a potential case against me.

Mailing-list analysis message excerpt by Wikimedia general counsel (lawyer):

Unsurprisingly, the artists, who enjoyed making a fuss with their initial perfomance-art project, are hoping to make a fuss about our having contacted them at all. We anticipated precisely this reaction, of course, which is why our initial letter to Wikipedia Art, now posted on their website, talks about resolving the matter amicably and asks the artists to respect and understand our concerns. In other words, it's about the gentlest "demand letter" one can possibly write. We're pleased it led to positive results (the disclaimer). We always figured they might post our communications with them.

Mailing-list comment by Wikimedia (volunteer) United Kingdom PR flack:

They're performance artists. This is more performance. They fooled the EFF into playing along.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on April 23, 2009 05:35 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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While I do respect the wikimedia efforts, it is a hard bargain on this on this one. I am unsure of what this is really going to accomplish.

On the homepage of wikipediaart "This web site documents a performance art work that promotes critical analyses of the nature of art, knowledge and Wikipedia. It is not affiliated with Wikipedia in any way. The Wikipedia website is located at wikipedia.org"

I wonder how long that has to stay there...

"this particular page of Wikipedia history is quickly revised by the Wikipedian powers that be."

Posted by: bunn at April 28, 2009 06:45 PM

I've been close to the Wikipedia Art story since day one. You might want to read my interviews with the two artists. Are the artists 'trolls'as Jimmy Wales has called them? I don't think so-- not anymore than some of the longtime Wikipedia editors who mark articles about artists as not notable even though the subjects of the articles have exhibited in museums and so on.

On Wikipedia a baseball player who only played one game is considered notable, a politician who never won an election can be notable without question-- but artists who have exhibited in a few museums often have articles about them questioned or speedy deleted unless they have been reviewed in the New York Times or one of the longstanding art magazines. That appears to happen often.




Posted by: Brian Sherwin @ Myartspace Blog at May 1, 2009 06:44 PM